Trump Declares Victory At NATO, Says U.S. Now "treated Fairly"

Posted September 16, 2014 14:40:23

Regional players must stand up Regional players must stand up Photo: Only Arabs can reboot Arab values and the institutions from which the horrors of IS have emerged. (Reuters: Stringer)

It is fitting for Australia to be part of a global effort to battle the Islamic State, but the outcome will depend primarily upon regional actors and five key considerations, writes Bob Bowker.

The deployment of Australian forces to the United Arab Emirates in preparation for use in the campaign against the Islamic State (IS) is justified by the gravity of the threat posed by IS to Australian interests, both security and strategic, and the values we support globally.

There is, however, a need for caution and realism in thinking about the objectives we are seeking to achieve.

For all the concerns we may share with regional countries and allies about the Islamic State, it remains a problem that is situated within the historical, political, social and strategic context of the Persian Gulf.

President Barack Obama has committed the power and prestige of the United States to achieving success in the conflict. That is not to be taken lightly. But the outcome will depend primarily upon the choices, capabilities and political leaderships of regional actors.

There are at least five issues that deserve to be recognised in that regard:

Iran is still a sore point

First, Arab governments in the immediate region of Iraq are concerned that IS should not be allowed to pose a genuine threat to their territory or their sovereignty. There is widespread revulsion at its cruelty - and a shared sense of shame across the Muslim world at its damage to the image of Islam and Muslims.

However, such concerns about IS remain of less importance in most Arab capitals than the determination to prevail in a decades-long contest against Iran, and within that context, to see the removal of the Assad regime in Syria. Consequently, we shall see continuing concern on the part of major Arab states to extract the maximum value from the United States in support of their particular agendas and priorities, especially in Syria.

There will be less enthusiasm for Western approaches that accept, tacitly or otherwise, the fact that Iran will need to be part of any durable solution to the IS challenge.

Suspicion of the West

Second, although their interests are arguably better served by taking a more robust and supportive attitude to the US commitment, Arab governments will be keen to minimise their part in a Western-led intervention against IS.

There is too little mutual respect at either government or popular levels between Arab capitals and Washington since 2001, and too little confidence in estimates of the ultimate outcome, especially where the Iranians are concerned, for Arab leaderships and popular audiences to have an appetite for open engagement of Arab military forces in such a conflict.

Reasonably discreet basing, training, certain special forces operations and intelligence sharing, and some aerial support to Western operations look increasingly likely; but no Arab leader would be willing to fight openly alongside Western forces on the soil of another Arab country when the ultimate beneficiary, in their estimation, would most likely be an Iraqi government beholden to Iran or the United States.

The reasons behind such thinking on the Arab side are simultaneously complex and naïve, calculating, contradictory and emotional.

But above all, they speak to three key themes: an Arab sense of being, for too long, on the receiving end of external agendas in an unequal and mostly conflictual relationship with the Western powers; resentment at being corralled into another US-led effort whose success (in American minds at least) ultimately hinges on addressing deficits of political and social empowerment - notions that make more sense in Washington and among a handful of secular reformist Arab intellectuals than in Arab leadership circles; and a deep sense of insecurity when Arab leaderships contemplate the potential consequences of a resurgent Iran.

Sectarian politics at play

Third, the instrumentalisation of sectarian differences for political purposes within Iraq (as elsewhere in the region) over the past decade means that a genuine rebalancing of political power within Iraq to bring the Sunnis on board against IS will be very difficult.

With US air support and a range of force enablers available to the Iraqi government, the risk of military defeat for the Shiah has lessened. Unfortunately, so too has the incentive in Baghdad to press forward with painful reversals of the disastrous policies of the Maliki government, and to bring about a balanced representation of competent Sunni figures within the military and security services.

The incoming government of prime minister Haidar al-Abadi is no more balanced in its representation of Sunnis than its predecessor. Washington will continue efforts to correct that situation: but the larger problems - giving effect to policies likely to achieve a genuine sense among Sunnis that their interests are being taken into account; containing Kurdish expectations on the possibility of independence; and building up local and national forces while dealing with the mutual mistrust among the players as the IS military threat recedes - will be ongoing challenges.

For its part, IS can be expected to modify its tactics in Iraq to counter US firepower by increasing its asymmetric use of bombings and the targeting of government officials and sympathisers. It is crushing any signs of dissent in areas it controls.

It will hope, in time, to exploit frictions between Kurds and Sunnis and the indiscipline of Shiah militias to retain some degree of Sunni acceptance, perhaps even support, while consolidating its coercive grip on urban environments including Mosul and Tikrit.

Social media will portray damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure as a deliberate targeting of Sunnis by the regime and the United States and its allies.

IS has strategic depth in eastern Syria

Fourth, at least until an agreed Western, Arab and Iranian strategy for dealing with Syria emerges, IS has the strategic depth of eastern Syria at its disposal. The Assad regime has shown it can remain cohesive. It has adapted to the demands of urban warfare, and can fight on several fronts simultaneously. But its main focus has been on reversing the initial gains of non-IS forces in key urban centres and countering the threat to the Alawite heartland, rather than on confronting threats in the east.

IS has consolidated much of its terrain at the expense of other jihadist forces, but it has also shown the ability to concentrate its forces to isolate and overwhelm key regime assets in Raqqa province. It appears unlikely the regime could reassert control over those points it has lost in the east, especially if its last remaining air base there (at Deir ez-Zor) were to fall into IS hands.

Iran still holds a lot of cards

Fifth, and finally, for many years to come Iran will have the largest degree of influence of any external player in regard to the future of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon because, unlike its Arab counterparts and Turkey, it has genuine strategic interests engaged in each of those countries that it is better placed and more determined to defend than any other actor.

It faces complex challenges as well - the politics among the Iraqi Shiah and their views of Iran are exceedingly complicated; it has larger interests at stake in its dealings with the United States than the threat from IS; its policy processes involve multiple competing actors and agendas, and it has resource constraints. But no durable solution will be found to the IS threat, in Iraq or in Syria, unless the Iranians assess it to be to their strategic advantage. 

Against that background, we can hope to find IS on the defensive, at least in Iraq, as the military campaign against it gathers momentum in coming months. But it would appear unlikely to be finally defeated in the foreseeable future in the absence of an Iraqi government that is supported by Iran but that can also command the respect, if not the loyalty of Iraqi Sunnis; with the IS urban foothold only at risk if the Iraqi government can put together a force to oppose it in which Sunnis, rather than Shiah militias, are strongly represented; with the Abadi government tempted to choose the expedient option of relying on Shiah militias and Iranian support rather than rebuilding and broadening its political base; and with eastern Syria providing strategic depth to IS forces.

That is not to argue against an Australian commitment to the struggle against IS. It is fitting for Australia to be part of a global effort to address the challenges ahead for the region, so long as we remember that our military contribution needs to be seen as a part of a wider struggle, necessarily within the region itself, to address the issues that have brought us to this point.

It is not a risk-free strategy for Australia and Australians. But the problems outlined above are formidable, not impossible, and problems in the Middle East tend to grow more complex and intractable the longer they are allowed to drift.

Only Arabs can reboot Arab values and the institutions from which the horrors of IS have emerged. Supporting such a process will have its full share of trade-offs, moral ambiguities and unintended consequences, but we can help bring relief to populations that deserve better futures than the barbarity of IS rule.

Bob Bowker is Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies, Australian National University. He was Australia's ambassador to Syria, 2005 to 2008. View his full profile here.

Topics: government-and-politics, unrest-conflict-and-war, defence-and-national-security, foreign-affairs

Comments (143)

Comments for this story are closed.

  • HPH:

    16 Sep 2014 2:57:29pm

    "Only Arabs can reboot Arab values and the institutions from which the horrors of IS have emerged."

    Tell that to:

    Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and United Arab Emirates

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    • harvey:

      16 Sep 2014 3:59:42pm

      While the west is being bankrupted, the Saudis and friends just rake in the petrodollars. Why is the US and us fighting their battles for them ?

      Also, it appears that ISIS is going to execute westerners regularly and advertise the gory details.

      It is being said that ISIS are trying to goad the West into coming back into the fight. Why ? And why are we being stupid enough to be duped by this ?

      The world is full of little wars where innocents are being killed and we only seem to care about this one region, we let the rest just get on with genocide.

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      • the yank:

        16 Sep 2014 4:55:49pm

        More votes in this war Harvey.

        Reading some of the comments is scary. There is a real lust for blood and an easy target with ISIL, what's not to hate?

        Westerners don't seem to be paying attention to people like

        Sheikh Yusef Qaradawi, leader of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

        He disagrees completely with ISIS in thought and means. but he does not accept that America should fight them.

        The United States, he said, ?is not moved by Islamic values but by its own interests, even if it spills blood.?

        That is how it is going to be perceived by Muslims and other groups will use it to form other terrorist groups.

        Consequences, few are thinking about the consequences.

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        • APM:

          16 Sep 2014 6:39:01pm

          All these Leftists that have suddenly discovered 'consequences'. What about the boat drownings? And poor immigration decisions that have brought extremists into our midst? Oil and other strategic concerns like keeping shipping lanes open do not disqualify the US from having other genuine interests like improving civility in the middle east for its own sake. Muslims are tribalistic and paranoid enough to always find something wrong with people who represent a challenge to their culture of violence and oppression. Victimhood is invoked in all dealing with the US and when things go right no-one thanks them. Imaginary victimhood is a cultural excuse for a bigotry and violence. Unfortunately the West has developed a weakness that uncritically accepting grievances equates to tolerance when it is demonstrably unreasonable.

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        • Fidanza:

          16 Sep 2014 8:59:05pm

          "All these Leftists...poor immigration decisions that have brought extremists into our midst"

          Whether the Fraser government was responsible or not for bringing in "extremists", it certainly was not a "Leftist" government. You can't pin this one on any Labor government. So please end this Straw Man argument once and for all. Immigration checks have been pretty good under the Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Rudd and Gillard governments. If Fraser was the Centre-Right, does that make you the Far Right?

          Besides immigrants in Australia did not cause the civil war in Iraq. Stop bringing up irrelevant immigration policies when we are dealing with a violent quasi-state in Northern Iraq.

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        • the yank:

          17 Sep 2014 6:35:36am

          'disqualify the US', ... Australia is not the US we are in the southern hemisphere and don't have Presidents. I would have thought they would have taught you that at school.

          I am discussing what Australia should do not the US. Last time I looked they could take care of themselves.

          Every action or non-action has consequences. Some you see some you don't.

          The question is where would our efforts best be placed? In our region or half way around the world in a war with the goal being to 'degrade' an army.

          Using history to go by what happened when we degraded al Qaeda? Did it stop them?

          Do you really want splinter groups of ISIL all over the world?

          The answer to this group lays with Islam. The Sunnis and Shia's either sort out their differences or we have all bloody hell across the world.

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        • Stephen S:

          16 Sep 2014 9:22:23pm

          Well, if you care to do some research you will find adeqate evidence PROVING ISIL is funded and supplied with weapons by the US and Allies, particularly Saudi Arabia and Qatar, though the US certainly is in their with both feet. Al-qaeda was the birth-child of the CIA as a terrorist group to assist in shoving those countries which refuse to comply with US Foreign Policy! Al-qaeda has moved on to become Al-Nusa, now they have become ISIL, they are all one of the same and developed for the very same reason, in particular, the removal of the Syrian Assad Regime! This nothing to do with a Sectarian conflict, as you have previously stated. You have been misinformed by our main stream media. Why bomb Syria? I can tell you now, it is not for the removal of ISIL, it is for the removal of Assad, with ISIL support, so that Qatar may run a gas pipeline through Syria and on to Europe, this is important for Obama as it weakens Russia (now supplys EU) and it is the same reason war is taking place in Ukraine, to weaken Russia economically, and to encourage Russia to cut the gas off to the EU, so the collapse of the global economy can take place, and the New Neo-Con World Order put in place!

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        • Rae:

          17 Sep 2014 9:10:55am

          An interesting comment.

          I have wondered about the actions of the IMF, World Bank and WTO. The consequences of their agendas seem to increase instability and poverty and also increase the lack of education, especially for girls, around the world.

          I'm not sure how the effects of interference in the Middle East by these organisations has contributed to the lack of trust but would suspect it could be a major factor.

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        • Burt:

          17 Sep 2014 10:59:42am

          "In 1973 under the shadow of the artificial OPEC oil crisis, the Nixon administration began secret negotiations with the government of Saudi Arabia to establish what came to be referred to as the petrodollar recycling system. Under the arrangement the Saudis would only sell their oil in U.S. dollars, and would invest the majority of their excess oil profits into U.S. banks and Capital markets. The IMF would then use this money to facilitate loans to oil importers who were having difficulties covering the increase in oil prices."

          It is in the interest of the IMF to protect the petrodollar.

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        • Marcela:

          17 Sep 2014 1:40:03pm

          Thanks Stephen S, that makes a lot of sense!

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      • Rasmuncher:

        16 Sep 2014 5:13:40pm

        There is a need to sell guns on a large scale and not having a war means they have a hard time justifying the sales. Look at Abbott with his subs to deal with the biggest threat against Australia, a bunch of guys on Toyota's in the desert of Iraq or perhaps invading Australia via a fishing boat in the Indian Ocean.

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      • gray:

        16 Sep 2014 11:30:48pm

        when the air bombings start isis will hide amongst the civilian population and then trot out pictures of civilian atrosities caused by the the west so as to recruit more sympathy and bombings in western nations by home grown terrorists, any body with any brains can see this coming, let the middle east sort out there own problems

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      • chalkie:

        17 Sep 2014 5:22:33am

        The fracking in the US and elsewhere might just cause the collapse of the petro-dollar Arab nations: if their income falls, so will their fake economies built on foreign workers and expensive welfare that buys off their hugely increasing populations.

        Then watch the chaos unfold as these nations implode and the US and west - suddenly without an interest in the region - stand back and watch it happen. I really hope the transition is slow and manageable . . .

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      • Jay Somasundaram:

        17 Sep 2014 12:33:08pm

        Many countries execute "westerners". So what exactly is the point?

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    • HPH:

      16 Sep 2014 5:57:54pm

      If you keep silent when injustice is perpetrated in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and United Arab Emirates and accept their way of life - the sharia law & female slavery in their societies - then no one has a right to criticise sharia laws & female slavery and injustices perpetrated under the IS rule.

      The poor people of the Middle East have suffered enough for economic benefits of Oil Companies.

      The real change has to come from oil-rich kingdoms, from within. They have to change their way of life and thinking first and set a good example for the rest.

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      • Stockel:

        16 Sep 2014 9:31:34pm

        Very true except that the ruling elites don't live by the same rules they want to impose on the ordinary mortals. So I doubt they see much need for change.

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        • HPH:

          17 Sep 2014 2:40:52pm

          Of course... If you remain silent.

          That was my point.

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    • chalkie:

      17 Sep 2014 5:19:13am

      To play the devil's advocate: what is the problem if ISIS continues in the Middle East? It promises to further destabilize a pretty unpleasant part of the world, making them less likely to foment problems further afield like Israel.

      It might be a location for terrorist training - but there is no shortage of these places now in the Arab world: Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mali, Nigeria etc etc.

      It might prompt travel bans on our citizens who might want to travel to (or at least return from ) these countries.

      But to fight in this war means dealing with Iran and thus probably acceding to its nuclear ambitions, then spurring the Saudis to get nuclear weapons. then there might be a real chance of nuclear war in the region, or at least a preemptive Israeli strike.

      Hang on - remind me of the problem with this again?

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      • Filz:

        17 Sep 2014 8:16:49am

        Hate to upset your day chalkie, but the Saudis have already purchased nukes from Pakistan. They just haven't taken delivery yet.

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      • Geography Teacher:

        17 Sep 2014 1:44:49pm

        chalkie - "but there is no shortage of these places now in the Arab world: Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Mali, Nigeria etc etc."

        You really need to learn some geography.

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  • Socrates:

    16 Sep 2014 2:58:28pm

    By far the most penetrating analysis of this situation that has appeared in the popular media.

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    • Bahbet:

      16 Sep 2014 3:45:21pm

      Socrates, as your name suggests, a wise comment. I agree with your appreciation of the article. Have it explained to us time and time again, until we get it, and understand what is really going on in the ME theatre of conflict.

      One phrase Bob uses is particularly memorable. 'Only Arabs can reboot Arabs.....' the word' reboot' is an interesting choice which puts the idea firmly in our digital age context. A self made new start is needed, and nothing less.

      And this reboot can only come from within. As the wise old Arab herders used to say can take a camel to water but you cannot make him drink....

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      • v:

        16 Sep 2014 4:52:00pm


        "And this reboot can only come from within."

        Which is a real worry, because ISIS is effectively the "reboot" that is being suggested.

        The chance for a "reboot" of Middle Eastern politics came in the fifties and sixties when a new generation of Arab nationalist leaders appeared on the scene. Nasser, Ghadaffi, Arafat, Ashrawi, even Saddam Hussein, represented the best chance since 1917 of the Arabs finally realising their dream of a united, democratic and secular Arab homeland. Over the next forty years or so, these leaders were undermined and eliminated by US and European intelligence agencies, leaving a power vaccum that was eagerly filled by Islamic extremism.

        The simple fact is that the West has never been comfortable with the idea of the Arab people achieving their legitmate goal of nationhood. This anti-Semitic attitude has been a feature of European politics for well over a thousand years. Such a nation would certainly be a rival to the west, but does this gove the west the right to stifle and frustrate the legitimate desire for national self-determination on the part of the Arab people?

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        • Rasmuncher:

          16 Sep 2014 5:17:22pm

          It is because they were undermined that the extremists took umbrage.

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        • Peter Schmidt:

          16 Sep 2014 5:45:47pm

          You are spot on.

          "NATO?s war in Libya was proclaimed as a humanitarian intervention ? bombing in the name of ?saving lives.? Attempts at diplomacy were stifled. Peace talks were subverted.

          Libya was barred from representing itself at the UN, where shadowy NGOs and ?human rights? groups held full sway in propagating exaggerations, outright falsehoods, and racial fear mongering that served to sanction atrocities and ethnic cleansing in the name of democracy. The rush to war was far speedier than Bush?s invasion of Iraq.

          Max Forte has scrutinized the documentary history from before, during, and after the war. He argues that the war on Libya was not about human rights, nor entirely about oil, but about a larger process of militarizing U.S. relations with Africa. The development of the Pentagon?s Africa Command, or AFRICOM, was in fierce competition with Pan-Africanist initiatives such as those spearheaded by Muammar Gaddafi.

          Far from the success NATO boasts about or the ?high watermark? proclaimed by proponents of the ?Responsibility to Protect,? this war has left the once prosperous, independent and defiant Libya in ruin, dependency and prolonged civil strife."

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        • Bahbet:

          17 Sep 2014 7:57:19am

          V, today I read a statement from a community leader as far away from the action as Ankara , Turkey where droves of impoverished (and often drug addicted) young men are heading for the IS storm front.

          Mr Arabaci says 'There are 7 new mosques in the vicinity, but not one school. The lives of the children are so vacant that they find any excuse to be sucked into action' Turkeys government as you know is not an extremist force.

          There is your word at ground-level, it is a very basic reboot that is needed in the Arab world, and it is already late in the day but to deny the problem exists in just this form is to be deluded into an acquiescence.

          Nationbuilding is the right and real business of cohesive peoples, yes, but without proper schools nothing much at all can be built.

          A great deal can and will be destroyed though.

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        • v:

          17 Sep 2014 9:51:10am


          "Nationbuilding is the right and real business of cohesive peoples, yes, but without proper schools nothing much at all can be built.

          A great deal can and will be destroyed though."

          I think that the important term here is "cohesive". Over the past century, the diplomatic and intelligence services of western governments have devoted enormous resources to ensuring that the Arab people are unable to form a cohesive nation. The West hates rivals. The West cannot abide the existence of competing civilisations, social structures, political systems or cultural traditions. The traditional anti-Semitism prevalent throughout European civilisation and history is not so much about anything that the Semitic people do, but the fact that they have the potential to become a great nation that would be a rival to the West.

          We need to get over this obsession with exclusivity and supremacy and accept that every single one of the more than seven billion human beings has exactly the same right to the resources they need to sustain their lives, to education, to decent health services, to clean water and to national self determination. While it may be in the interests of the West (at least in the short term) to continue its plunder and interference in the affairs of the rest of the world, it is impossible to justify on an ethical level.

          It is the traditional Western fear of and hostility to the idea of pan-Arab nationalism that has created the current situation. The Arab people have an undeniable right to national self-determination and, as we have very effectively eliminated all the progressive, secular leaders who could have ensured the peaceful and productive emergence of a new nation, it is not surprising that some would follow the only people still offering the hope of a united Arab homeland.

          The Immams can spout as much hate and fear as they like, but it would have no impact on people who have been treated fairly and with respect by those the Immams rage against. It is the actions of our governments and armed forces that give the weight and credibility to their words. At the moment, Mr Abbott and Ms Bishop are far more effective recruiters for ISIS than all of the propaganda on the Web.

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    • Noel Conway:

      16 Sep 2014 4:17:37pm

      "By far the most penetrating analysis of this situation that has appeared in the popular media."

      I have to disagree with this summation. Although there is a degree of intelligent analysis of the many faceted Middle east conundrum, the idea that Australia is serving its own interest in involving itself in this war is misguided.

      There has still been no detail of what atrocities IS has committed. We don't know the scale of the bloodshed, or whether hundreds, or thousands, or tens of thousands have died. I would think it would be responsible of us to know the extent of the culpability of IS before we send our stormtroopers in to "degrade and destroy" without really having any sound idea how we are to accomplish that goal.

      Of course the US believes bigger guns can win anything. Those bigger guns really prevailed in Iraq last time and look where that got us.

      Just because we have the firepower to target strategic strongholds does not mean that that firepower will weaken or destroy IS. When you are fighting a nation there is a clear objective, destroy their ability to govern, and to control their army. Kill Saddam Hussein. Pretty simple.

      In this case we don't even know the names of the leaders, we don't know their network, we don't know how quickly they can merge in with the rest of the population.

      How many civilian deaths will we allow ourselves this time around? How many innocents will we own up to? We have seen time and again air strikes hitting civilian schools and hospitals. What reassurances have we got that this will not occur this time?

      This is not a "responsibility to protect," operation, it is a targeted response to what is considered a terrorist group. And yet this terrorist group has not suggested it is waging a war against the west. The terrorism, if we are to call it that, is local and regional. IS are fighting a civil war, if truth be known. We may not like it, we may not like the manner in which they conduct themselves, but we should be very wary of interfering in the regional conflict IS has begun.

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      • Waterloo Sunset 2016:

        16 Sep 2014 6:20:59pm

        You keep writing that you don't know?

        There is plenty of honest truthful literature on the subject. Read it.

        There are also genuine interviews with terrified Iraqi, Syrian and Kurdish people. Watch them

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        • Noel Conway:

          16 Sep 2014 8:25:33pm

          if you have specific figures on the number of deaths that IS are responsible for then please enlighten us.

          On tonight's 7.30 report it was stated IS have approximately 30,000 operatives controlling a mass of land that contains nine million people.

          Now obviously IS is not slaughtering those nine million people, but they are governing them. There is a huge difference between slaughtering without compunction, and deaths that arise out of civil conflict.

          Where is the evidence of the "tens of thousands" that have been put to the sword? Again, if you have any facts or evidence to provide, then provide it.

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        • Sea Monster :

          17 Sep 2014 7:57:04am

          Noel the architects of the Iraq troop surge made a great deal of the success of their brilliant strategy. What they don't acknowledge so much is the concurrent Sunni Revolt. Basically the tribes got jack of the bandits' oppression and religious fervor (which was antagonistic to local customs) so they stopped fighting alongside the bandits and started cooperating with the Americans.

          Please bear that in mind. The bandits' ideology and oppression is anathema to the locals.

          I think you're on very dubious moral ground. You seem to be arguing that there is a legitimate level of hacking off heads if it serves good government. The bandits' MO is to roll into a captured town and hack off the heads of the community leaders that kicked them out a few years ago. There's a documented case of them hacking the head off a teenage boy in Syria after town held a demonstration against them.

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        • Noel Conway:

          17 Sep 2014 11:59:50am

          Your moral argument appears to be that the hacking off of a single head, beheading someone, is the ultimate crime. Perhaps it is.

          But there are very very many crimes in the world. That is my argument. What makes it Australia's business in this instance? And how many innocent lives are we going to take as part of our role in this war?

          If someone on Mars is beheading people i wouldn't think that is my business. If they came to Earth and started taking off our heads it would become my business.

          But this is a regional conflict. What role ought we to play in regional conflicts? The UN makes it clear that it is when "genocide" or something akin to genocide is taking place. The case for genocide in Iraq by IS operatives is not proven. And it takes more than one or two beheadings to make it so.

          We lock up children in horrible conditions in detention. These children have done no worse crime than run from such places as Iraq in fear of their lives.

          America has the highest incarceration rate in the world, and the rate of black incarcerations is on the magnitude of apartheid.

          I see evil, all right, i see evil at home. Where is your moral compass when it comes to kids in detention?

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      • v:

        17 Sep 2014 11:23:05am


        "There has still been no detail of what atrocities IS has committed."

        Quite right. There have been a few sensational news stories about people having their heads cut off (three so far) and some talk of sieges and humanitarian rescue missions, but no real detail or, more importantly, no explanation of how the atrocities being committed by ISIS/IS/ISIL are different in character or more barbaric than those being committed by terrorist groups (like the Lord's Resistance Army - for example) and government security forces in other parts of the world.

        The Arabs suffer the twin curses of living on one of the most strategically significant pieces of ground on Earth, and sitting on top of a resource that western corporations cannot do without and will therefore go to any lengths to secure. This is not their fault, but it is the reality that they have been forced to live with for a thousand years (before oil, the resource was land). And I suspect that this is at the root of the problem. Meanwhile, the Lord's Resistance Army can continue on abducting, raping, torturing, mutilating, forcing children into military service because they are doing it in a place that doesn't matter to the West, and to people who don't matter to the West.

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    • toot:

      16 Sep 2014 4:41:19pm

      I agree Socrates. Thank you for the very thought-provoking analysis Bob.

      Given the history of the West's intervention in the ME so far, I wish I could share your belief that "the problems outlined above are formidable, not impossible.." Your article has only further convinced me that we should not become involved, beyond offering humanitarian assistance. Western Governments have only made the situation exponentially worse every time we have gone in with guns blazing.

      It seems to me that problems in the Middle East are going to "grow more complex and intractable" regardless of what the West does. They do not want democracy; anything but. The Shia and the Sunni have zero interest in co-operating with each other, yet they are the only ones who can resolve the situation. Furthermore, the West has too much economic interest in oil and in supplying arms to ever develop the sort of careful response that you list as required. Several of Australia's banks have a lot of money invested in armament producers....well, you get the picture.

      It is an admirable aim to "help bring relief to populations that deserve better futures than the barbarity of IS rule" and one I am sure everyone shares. The minorities idea of what they want is likely to be very different to one the West will find palatable. We always want to impose our views on them and we've proven to be very untrustworthy allies. Why should they believe it will be any different this time?

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    • BkDw:

      16 Sep 2014 6:46:55pm

      The sixth issue is missing from the analysis.

      Abbott's ambition for war.

      Abbott sees himself as a man of destiny, as a greater man than John Howard. Howard had a war, now Tony has one too.

      More dangerously, Abbott's background gives rise to rapidly solidifying suspicions that a crusade is another of his ambitions.

      Look out Australia.

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      • gorlassar:

        17 Sep 2014 7:03:53am

        And the way this country and its people have leapt wholeheartedly into another pointless, unwinnable and extremely costly war ... it's insane! It took months and months of fabricated lies and media spin to get us into Iraq in 2003 - tens of thousands of us protesting - just three beheadings of white UK and US men (let's not pretend Americans or Australians could care less about the Iraqis themselves) and here we are, back again.

        And only Christine Milne is protesting this time. History will prove her right, of course, not that anyone'll care.

        This is madness. It'll do nothing to bring peace to Iraq, and it'll CERTAINLY not discourage extremism and the terrorist threat at home.

        But everybody loves a war!!! Humanity does not deserve the name. We are a doomed species.

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  • Dean:

    16 Sep 2014 3:04:24pm

    It IS fitting to be involved. This despicable group is a threat to the entire World and must be DESTROYED without mercy. They have no respect for human life, and no reason to be on this earth. And Jaqui Lambie is quite right. Any Australian supporters of these revolting people should have their bags packed for them and pushed out of the Country forever. I am sure most Australians would agree, including politicians but many are too gutless to say. Pity.

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    • ScottBE:

      16 Sep 2014 4:03:27pm

      ..... "without mercy" ..... ?

      "How can we hope for mercy if we show none..." (Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice) advice from Portia to Shylock is most apt here. You can read the remainder of this most eloquent mainstay of western justice if you wish... but to deny mercy to anyone is to demonstrate ignorance of that other's position and to provoke a merciless response.

      Might is NOT right Dean. It is a folly that has inspired our most grave conflicts throughout history.

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      • Waterloo Sunset 2016:

        16 Sep 2014 6:22:54pm

        Cancer, is often cut out. Chemotherapy also works to a degree, however doing nothing mostly results in a painful death.

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        • Noah's Ark:

          16 Sep 2014 9:52:49pm

          Using Cannabis also amerlorates the effect of Chemo and makes it a bearable experience. Remember the Great and Ongoing War on Drugs. So what's your point Waterloo Sunset.?

          BTW a lot of Cancer's are inoperable.

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        • Waterloo Sunset 2016:

          17 Sep 2014 10:44:01am

          What's my point?

          Treat it!

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        • Sea Monster :

          17 Sep 2014 7:37:28am

          Take the analogy further. Doctors find a cancer, doctors do something about it. It seems more and more that doing something often causes more harm than the cancer. Prostate cancer is an obvious example.

          Its called intervention bias. If we see a problem we feel we have to do something.

          An example you'd probably find easier to see. Someone is poor. Or someone is in danger if losing his because a factory is closing. The government must intervene. Even if the intervention causes unseen poverty or is harmful to employment generally.

          Not arguing against an intervention against the bandits. Just saying we need to be very careful about it. And consider the do nothing option. And (as shrill lefties often don't) admit we chose that option as least harmful if a genocide occurs.

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        • Waterloo Sunset 2016:

          17 Sep 2014 10:43:14am

          The merits of discipline have been honed over the centuries.

          You may argue differently, however I believe that without strong intervention and retaliation to the point of killing and/or incarcerating their fundamentalist leaders, who will never be persuaded to change their view, is the only way.

          or send them to the salt mines.

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    • Dove:

      16 Sep 2014 4:15:38pm

      Threat to the cosmos, Dean. The cos-mos.

      Or, they are interested in Iraq ans Syria. They are Arabs fighting a civil war. The clue is in their name

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    • the yank:

      16 Sep 2014 4:16:39pm

      "must be DESTROYED without mercy" ... then why don't you sign up and help out?

      Blood lust is a real turn off to logical thinking. Will the west degrade ISIL? Sure. Will they totally destroy it? Very unlikely.

      Think al Qaeda and you'll find your glimpse into what the future will look like.

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    • Ian Shallar:

      16 Sep 2014 4:52:38pm

      Dean, whilst its easy to understand the emotional response to the horrible actions of these IS thugs, the practicalities of what you suggest have nothing to do with guts or otherwise. If the supporters are Australian citizens who were born in Australia, deportation is quite simply not a viable option.

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      • muzz:

        16 Sep 2014 5:17:41pm

        No deportation is viable if we have country like Uganda under Idi Amin who deported the Indians because they upset him or Nazi Germany who deported the Jews because they were declared non citizens of the state and this led to an attempted Genocide and the murder of 6million Jews .

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    • Crow:

      16 Sep 2014 6:48:11pm

      so before we send off our armed forces to be possibly put at risk, shouldnt we get our policy consistent?

      Ie is is right or wrong to behead people for religious differences. if not, what are the consequences for Saudi Arabia for doing so?

      Should we be arming, supporting and protecting rebel forces to overthrow regimes such as Syria, only to cry crocodile tears when they turn against us?

      This is why many of us are hesitant about this war. one because it seems that this is what ISIS want in the first place (and first rule of war would be not to give your enemy what they want) and the second is that we are going to fight the very enemy our main ally created in the first place. everywhere they go they cause death and chaos in the middle east, yet now apparently if we just bomb a few of them, everything will be alright.

      its naive, simplistic rightwing nonsense.

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      • Ann:

        17 Sep 2014 12:52:47pm

        That is what I cannot believe, Crow. The actions of IS are clearly intended to goad the US into action and war.

        When your enemy is banging drums, waving their kilts and trying to goad you into charging them, *back the h*ll up!*

        They might be bluffing (it's certainly happened before), but you want to step back and think about that for a moment before testing it.

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    • Erick Quang:

      17 Sep 2014 11:45:37am

      Dean your comments are spot on ,The whole place should be set on fire, all life extinguished there .then start again after the radiation has died down .Isis is a threat to the world ,it and its supporters should be eliminated by any means possible .We wernt frightened to use the a bomb in WW2 ,we shouldn't frightened to use it again .

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      • bob:

        17 Sep 2014 3:13:45pm

        "its supporters should be eliminated by any means possible"

        you mean the USA as well then surely?

        oh and the rest of your comments were pure insanity.

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  • The Eggman:

    16 Sep 2014 3:05:34pm

    Sadly, it seems to me that the USA has a tendency to act on the basis of only two key considerations rather than five in its war making objectives.

    Firstly, who will get what share of the spoils?

    Secondly, who gets to decide?

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    • the yank:

      16 Sep 2014 4:57:46pm

      How about a third ... why are we going and what will it cost and I am not just talking about the financial cost.

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      • Noah's Ark:

        16 Sep 2014 6:14:37pm

        This so termed "Humanitarian" ( a most Orwellian Double Speak Concept) intervention will cost Australian plenty in "Blood and Treasure".

        The ultimate goal being that the Abbott government could be re elected on a mandate of War Mongering and the marginalising of certain minorities being dressed up as National Security. Abbott will have News Limited and the MSM barracking and giving all possible assistance.

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  • Sir Trent Toogood:

    16 Sep 2014 3:12:08pm

    It's not the Islamic State!

    It's the, 'death cult'.

    IS isn't scary enough.

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    • Dove:

      16 Sep 2014 4:12:13pm

      "You know, why don't we just bomb? What?s the harm of bombing them at least for a few weeks and seeing what happens?" - Bill Kristol

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    • Sea Monster :

      16 Sep 2014 4:28:13pm

      Look I find Operation This and Operation That as tedious as the next person, but I think he's onto something with Death Cult.

      Calling them what they call themselves lends them cred. And if a penchant for severing and playing with the heads of captives isn't a death cult, what is? I'd be inclined to call the bandits but death cult will do. I think he's getting better advise than other leaders on this.

      Back to Operations. I yearn for the days when they had random names. Operation Market Garden. Operation Cartwheel. Operation Toenails. Stuff like that.

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      • Waterloo Sunset 2016:

        16 Sep 2014 6:26:10pm

        The trouble is that the left wing has changed the world - for the worse. We are so PVC now that we don't even have free speech to call it what it should be called: Operation Islam!

        I bet this posts gets censored - that's how terrified we are of speaking our minds.

        That's why we must fight this creeping radical cancer (ISIS).

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      • Ann:

        17 Sep 2014 12:57:47pm

        Sea Monster you know another group of people who are trained and focused on little else but how best to kill people, and whom there can be examples found of humiliating and dehumanising actions taken by some of them towards other human beings?

        Any army ever.

        All armies are "death cults" - inoculating young men into accepting they have to kill people and telling them how best to do it.

        Emotive language is used for a reason. To make you feel emotional. Don't fall for that game.

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        • Sea Monster :

          17 Sep 2014 2:12:36pm

          'Death Cult' is emotive language and should be ignored. Our army is a death cult.

          Got it. Makes perfect sense.

          I'd agree the motives of an army are somewhat similar motives to the bandits'. But I wouldn't go as far as death cult. When Defence PR starts trying to impress everyone by habitually tweeting decapitations and playing with the heads of murdered detainees get back to me.

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    • Politically Incorrect:

      17 Sep 2014 10:57:16am

      Funny how he called them a death cult and then said religion has nothing do do with it. How does that little brain of his work?

      Has he never heard the term "does not compute!"

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  • awake:

    16 Sep 2014 3:18:19pm

    Shiah, Sunnis, Kurds, Iraq, Iran, Arab States, Syria, Turkey, Lebanon, oh my God, or theirs.

    Thank you, I think, Bob Bowker, Adjunct Professor at the Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies. What an article, so much information for this Granny.

    It really is up to the Arabs States and negotiation - but who to negotiate? US and Oz with planes full of bombs? 30 world leaders all bellowing for blood?

    "Trade-offs, moral ambiguities and unintended consequences" sounds like an awful lot of unhappy souls for many years to come. But this isn't a war says Tony, but they will kill people!

    Its and intervention, so killing is not really happening, like collateral damage. What a world we live in.

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  • Rasmuncher:

    16 Sep 2014 3:20:12pm

    There are a number of issues to consider. The first is that the assault by ISIS is not being declared against Sunnis but against Shia, Christians and Kurds and hence, has limited opposition by regional heads, other than those Syria and Iran and then only as it concerns them.

    The only serious regional opposition to ISIS is Iran and due to international sanctions, they have been sidelined from a collective mission. If they were given access to move and support the Shia government of Iraq, they have the capacity to completely remove the threat but then they would also enable Shia control of the areas where the oil is to be found, and that is where the western angst is mostly centered.

    The next issue is that when the US took on the Taliban in Afghanistan, there were estimated to be around 4000 militants. Ten years and 100 billion dollars later, they still exist and will resurface when they want. With ISIS, they have an estimated 40,000 militants and will use the same operating MO as the Talibs and as such could prove to be ten times harder to remove.

    The next issue is ISIS access to weapons and ammunition that largely come from one of the five permanent member countries of the Security Council who are also he largest weapon manufacturers. Cut that and effectively it would be like cutting off the head of the snake. The problem there however is that we are largely under the foreign policy control of industrial military complex of the US, UK and France. Their munition businesses need constant wars to maintain production, sales and profits.

    Australia's engagement is moot. We are sending 600 against 40,000. It is however the region of the world where David fought Goliath and perhaps our PM sees himself on a biblical mission of similar magnitude.

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    • TrevorN:

      16 Sep 2014 4:10:26pm

      "...It is however the region of the world where David fought Goliath and perhaps our PM sees himself on a biblical mission of similar magnitude."

      Well, if Tone wants to do the David v Goliath thingy, we could just about afford to supply him with a slingshot and a pocket full of rocks, given that we do have that budget emergency he's been raving about - up till now.

      I guess that a very scary terror alert is politically worth more than the budget blowout panic, but how is he going to explain the fleet of armoured BMW's at $500K a pop he's ordered to keep himself and his cronies safe going to affect the budget.

      I guess he'll just have to send in Joe to drag whatever pennies are left out of the pockets of pensioners, students, the sick and the unemployed.

      Go team OZ! Tone has made the call and we all have to follow like sheep.

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    • struck dumb:

      16 Sep 2014 5:03:44pm

      ISIS in theory may not represent as great a threat to the Sunni Arab states, but in practice its not going to let the gulf oil sheikhs carry on with their lavish life-style; its as much a threat to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Israelis, Druze, etc as it is to the Shi'a and Kurds.

      ISIS exists because nothing else satisfies the needs of its members. One test of its religious inspiration will be the upcoming pilgrimage season to Mecca; ISIS didn't stop for Ramadan so its unlikely this holy period will pass without one or more atrocities either. Whether ISIS extends its war to encompass those Arab states that join the US against them will give some indication of how far they think they can push to succeed in creating their caliphate; its possible they may not be interested in expanding their territory any further than Iraq, Syria, bits of Turkey and Jordan, and perhaps an attempt at grabbing a bit of Iran. This could well be a defining moment for them as much as it is for the Muslim States that have to recognise that ISIS could be a threat to their very existence, if not now, then in the future. Allowing ISIS to entrench itself within the narrow confines of its caliphate will only be a temporary measure. ISIS will outgrow its boundaries and look further afield for fresh conquests.

      Are the Arab states willing to ally themselves with the non-Arab Muslim states and the Western Powers to defend their way of life, or will they still be squabbling among themselves when the black flag flies above their palaces on the Arabian Peninsula?

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      • Dove:

        16 Sep 2014 5:48:39pm

        You'd think the Saudi's would be the most concerned. They've been choking their own people for decades now and whilst oil largesse trickles down somewhat, there is a desire to be rid of the corrupt House of Saud. Violence aside, there is a scriptural alignment among Salafists and maybe it wouldn't take too much to cause a rebellion in the Kingdom?

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        • Ann:

          17 Sep 2014 1:01:13pm

          Yes the problem with revolt in Saudi Arabia is that if the corrupt Sauds go down, they may very well be replaced by the hard-line religious police and clerics.

          I think the US would happily chuck the entire royal family in the hyena pit if they thought there was a better option waiting in the wings. The fact that they've been supporting said royal family says a lot about the alternatives.

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        • Dove:

          17 Sep 2014 3:04:31pm

          True, and I rather think that most people, irrespective or race, religion or nationality would rather have some choice in how their affairs are managed. Abiding by an election that goes against you would seem to be an entirely different proposition

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      • Noah's Ark:

        16 Sep 2014 6:55:06pm

        So far the afore mentioned Arab states that have attended the conference in Paris are merely there for the PR and Grand Gestures.

        I doubt if any of these self interested Arab states will actually commit any assistance outside of letting the US and Australia use their airfields and establish a base from which to carry out operations. These airfield rights and base rights will also be along strict guidelines according to what these Arab (The Gulf States noteably) governments will allow. It will be restricted.

        Turkey for example will not allow any military operations to be launched or based on its soil. And with good reason. Turkey has an ongoing issue with the Free Kurdistan movement.

        So I predict that no Arab states will ever be an active and participating partner to this new Coalition of the willing.

        BTW the United Kingdom has not at yet committed any military or as Abbott would have it Humanitarian Intervention.

        So where will this predicament leave Australia. Infinitely worse off I say. It will in all regards thrust the terrorist agenda into our own backyard. All this so Abbott can have a distraction from his disasterous budget andfdomestic agenda hidden by a National Security Emergency bought on by his own international meddling.

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    • I think I think:

      16 Sep 2014 7:25:21pm

      This isnt David v Goliath for Abbott. It is far more akin to the Crusades. Plundering Christian nations dealing death for profit. Little has changed in a millenium.

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    • Filz:

      17 Sep 2014 8:30:35am

      "...perhaps our PM sees himself on a biblical mission of similar magnitude.."

      Rasmuncher, you have succeeded where IS failed - I'm now genuinely terrified at the prospect of Abbott's head containing such crazy thoughts.

      What could possibly be done about that?

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  • Judy Bee:

    16 Sep 2014 3:20:24pm

    Professor Bowker says it all in his summary " Only Arabs can reboot Arab values and the institutions from which the horrors of IS have emerged".

    It is the "unintended consequences" of our involvement that we have to consider. It is of some real concern that Tony Abbott has demonstrated again and again, he does not have the intelligence and strength of character to deal with complexities.

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    • bluedog:

      16 Sep 2014 3:45:57pm

      Fortunately we don't have to listen to Kevin Rudd's plans for dealing with ISIS.

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    • ScottBE:

      16 Sep 2014 4:32:20pm

      well said Judy Bee... I share your understanding and agree wholeheartedly.

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  • Nyrang:

    16 Sep 2014 3:23:28pm

    Prof. Bowker's article is interesting and informative: like many on current Middle East. It is fortunate for Australians that our issues on any involvement are just two and much simpler: Try to stay in with The (A) Big Guy who might be grateful enough to protect us if we need it. A party attempts to win more votes than otherwise might thought worth. As interesting as other knowledge is, just whoever else is doing what to whomsoever else anywhere else is irrelevant.

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  • ScottBE:

    16 Sep 2014 3:28:10pm

    Thank you Prof Bowker.

    such critical analysis is essential to our understanding and can direct our government if they care to read your piece.

    ..."There is too little mutual respect at either government or popular levels between Arab capitals and Washington since 2001..."

    I believe that this is the central tenet of the difficulties that we face as a nation. The two Iraq wars were driven by commercial concerns in the first place and an unreasoning thirst for revenge in the second. The consequence of which was the instalment of a divisive President and greater conflict between Sunni and Shi'a sects.

    In sum, our "military solutions" created the present conflict. More aggression will merely exacerbate the problem.

    For western nations to take the lead will also accelerate conflict. Sunni nations need to lead the conflict resolution and western nations must perforce follow their lead. With respect and understanding of the Sunni position.

    Iran and other Shi'a leadership must be integral to the solution as well. This is a problem between sects and radicalisation due to western dominance will only continue to confuse and create more anger.

    Therefore we must follow the Islamic lead in this conflict. I think Mr Obama sees this too and so is waiting upon Islamic leadership.

    We can join in aerial assaults pro temp, but other actions, particularly on the ground aggression, must needs wait on local direction.

    If we attack, as Mr Abbott would have us do, we certainly risk escalating the conflict and broadening the resistance until it truly becomes a conflict of Islam vs western nations. And resistance gathers greater support from local people than anything else when faced with aggression.

    Mr Abbott must take great care if we are to engage. He must listen to diplomats and non-military experts such as your good self Professor.

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  • SuzyQ:

    16 Sep 2014 3:31:17pm

    Interesting article. Most interesting point I picked out was that opinion regarding the reluctance of Arab govts to join in western efforts to deal with IS, which the author attributes - in part - to:

    "an Arab sense of being, for too long, on the receiving end of external agendas in an unequal and mostly conflictual relationship with the Western powers;"

    I am not sure how this is the case for some of these Arab govts (eg, Saud) as really they have merely profited from the Western reluctance to upset the oil barrel. But, if indeed this attitude is real, then I wonder why the West is yet again feeling it needs to intervene. If these Arab governments are tired of being patronised by the West in it's efforts to deal with regional human rights violations, then perhaps we should leave them alone to deal with IS.

    We know they can't/won't fix either IS or the underlying problems of Islamic fundamentalism, but then let's face it, nor can the West. I'm minded to paraphrase Aristotle when he speaks of righteous rage as only being truly righteous when it comes from the right person at the right time for the right reasons. Righteous "intervention" can only come from the "right person", and in this instance that is perhaps not the West (and I'm going to ignore the debate around conflicting theories as to whether all players in the West in fact even have the "right reasons").

    But maybe the fable of Henny Penny is more apt . . .

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    • Ann:

      17 Sep 2014 1:05:31pm

      SuzyQ, the elite of Saudi Arabia have benefited from US intervention, but on the street level, the people don't like the Sauds and they don't like that the US is propping them up. Similarly in other Arabian countries the rulers may be quite content with the US but their subjects are not.

      Imagine if the USA came to Australia and forced us to have a leader that they picked. Even if he/she wasn't a bad leader, we would still resent that, right?

      So on a government level Saudi Arabia wants the US to come and strong-arm their opponents, but they will cry long and hard about it in order to appease the populace.

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  • Rob:

    16 Sep 2014 3:31:31pm

    There are three more issues to define the Islamic State war which the author seemingly missed- Turkey,Saudi Arabia and Israel.

    All three are contributors to the tangled web we are getting ourselves involved in= a web which most Australians. ledt as they are by a bunch of juvenilles- have no hope of ever understand.

    'Only Arabs can reboot Arab values and the institutions from which the horrors of IS have emerged"

    That is exactly why it is NOT fitting for Australia to be part of any sort of military action- but it is fitting for it to be part of a genuine global effort to help Mulims-not just Arabs reboot Muslim values.

    'Peace cannot be kept by force-it can only be achieved by understanding" Einstein

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  • Jerry:

    16 Sep 2014 3:32:34pm

    After declaring that Australian intervention is justified, the author explains why it won't work. It great to have the high moral ground but the mode of intervention in the context of history has virtually no chance of doing more that killing one lot of radicals while creating another. It is not just a matter of being cautious, it is a matter of only doing those things that will make a long term difference.

    The solution for the Arab world has to be the Arab world. The west has, by its past record, ruled itself out of any constructive military role.

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  • adam bonner:

    16 Sep 2014 3:46:23pm

    Our involvement in US air strikes is contrary to our national interest and will not assist Iraqi's to develop a sustainable political system. Our unjustified invasion of Iraq in 2003 led the way to the formation of IS and bombing them now will not achieve what eight years of boots on the ground failed to do. Indeed it will only make the situation worse because even if IS is temporarily driven back, it is likely they will withdraw to neighbouring countries and regroup and then morph into more of the same later. We have seen the same thing happen to Al Qaeda and despite the claims of success in Afghanistan to the Taliban as well. Indeed our interventions in these countries in many ways has strengthened the ideological pull of these groups.

    The common retort is that we must do something because doing nothing means IS will only grow and continue their campaign of terror. This argument fails on a number of fronts. Firstly we do not know that IS can hold the peace. It is one thing to overcome Iraqi and Syrian forces in the desert, quite another to be able to sustain a workable government. Secondly even if they did form some sort of workable government as the Taliban did in Afghanistan prior to the US invasion, it wouldn't mean they would be able to continue to expand because they would come up against much stronger foes in Iran and Turkey. Thirdly it is not a credible argument to argue we must do something if the 'something' we must do actually makes IS stronger. I know that seems counterintuitive with the US holding such a vastly superior military position, but as we all know the US has been beaten before in Vietnam and the Sunni insurgents in Iraq and Syria have shown a distinct ability to come back from what would appear to be grave in order to easily take significant swathes of territory.

    Far better for Australia to take an independent position from the US by withdrawing our military forces and simply providing humanitarian aid where feasible. We should not seek to be the international policeman or the lapdog of others.

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  • bluedog:

    16 Sep 2014 3:53:18pm

    The unspoken fear is, whatever we do, the ideology of ISIS will take root in the suburbs of our big cities.

    It follows that we need to defeat ISIS in the Middle Eastern deserts rather than witness TV beheadings locally. In this regard, ISIS does us a favour. If Australian extremists are drawn to the Middle East, never to return, we will be safer at home.

    The Coalition government's planned deployment should therefore be seen as prudent management of a domestic risk.

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    • Dove:

      16 Sep 2014 4:47:44pm

      The research has long suggested that most western fighters who go to join wars in Iraq and Syria do not leave with the intention of returning home to commit violent acts. The majority of them go expecting to either build an Islamic state there, or die on the battlefield.

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      • bluedog:

        16 Sep 2014 5:16:14pm

        'The majority of them go expecting to either build an Islamic state there, or die on the battlefield.'

        Excellent news, Dove. We should help those of the mujahideen with dual passports in their wise choice by cancelling their Australian passports. Tough love perhaps, but we don't want them making the mistake of trying to return here.

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        • Noah's Ark:

          16 Sep 2014 10:08:24pm

          bluedog. The real truth of the matter is that Abbott's "Humanitarian" intervention will further radicalise and push disaffected youth (probably Muslim) in Australia to have a crack and stand up to this foolishness on Abbott's behalf and commit Terrorist Atrocities on Australian soil.

          How would you feel if your "Identity" was constantly under state sanctioned duress dressed up by the media to incite the rest of the population to serendipitously condemn them as all tarred with the same brush and to be feared.

          Thereby we can have Abbott acting as a DeFacto Australian Strong Man to whom the Australian population must of course be indebted to.

          Really. Its just a two pronged diversion whose outcome is to appease American Corporate interests under the banner of ridding the world of a "Death Cult" - ISIL. Secondly to distract the Australian population in hope of re electing the worse financially inept and socially divisive government Australia has experienced since the UAP and the wholesale support of the English Banking System during the Great Depression.

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    • Coogara:

      17 Sep 2014 8:44:40am

      bluedog, I don't think inflicting damage on ISIL will change the terrorist threat in Australia. If anything it will radicalise some muslims who are already sympathetic to ISIL and foster antagonism towards those elements who they perceive as enemies of Islam.

      I don't think we have any option of going to Iraq but let us not be deceived there will be any benefits for us other than to send to paradise people who might potentially carry out acts in Australia.

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      • Dove:

        17 Sep 2014 3:01:47pm

        I agree, although for different reasons. The Lakemba dropouts that might be lured to try their stuff in the middle east are pretty radicalised already in order to make that move. If they really want to go to war against Australia, they needn't earn the fly-miles in order to do so. Those that go are there to build there version of earthly paradise or die trying. If there ever is an end to it, they'd be wanting to spread their jihad to neighbouring countries.

        This is not to say there isn't a threat. There is and it's because we're in the grand alliance and we've been under some kind of threat for decades. This ISIS business doesn't increase it too much. I personally see the threat as being on the policing-security scale but this has been exaggerated to allow the government to go to what would otherwise be a deeply unpopular war. Which it will become

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  • Rasmuncher:

    16 Sep 2014 3:57:35pm

    Adding to my previous comments, there is a larger bull in the China shop than Shia v. Sunni. That is the internal conflict going on between the Wahabi Sunni in Saudi and the Caliphate Sunni interests of ISIS.

    The west's engagement satisfies the immediate demands of the proxy war interests of Saudi v. Iran that take place in most Islamic countries where the two factions exist but it will have no bearing on the internal politics taking shape within the Sunni faction which is where we now find ourselves with ISIS. The divided allegiances between the two will be much harder to separate and find common ground, something akin to separating Lib and Labor voters in Australia.

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  • Martin:

    16 Sep 2014 4:08:51pm

    The Muslim states in the area either won't get involved or are probably assisting IS.

    So why is gung ho Tony getting us involved to the tune of $500 million a year during a budget crisis?

    Our forces will end up bombing civilians and we will look like the bad guys.

    It was a bad war in 2003. Its a worse war now.

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  • v:

    16 Sep 2014 4:23:23pm


    "The deployment of Australian forces to the United Arab Emirates in preparation for use in the campaign against the Islamic State (IS) is justified by the gravity of the threat posed by IS to Australian interests, both security and strategic, and the values we support globally."

    I am afraid that neither you nor Mr Abbott have raised one sensible argument to support this contention.

    Exactly HOW does IS/ISIS/ISIL's activities in Iraq and Syria adversely affect Australia's "interests"? Exactly what are Australia's "interests" in Iraq and Syria? If there are such interests, are they legitimate? If they are legitimate, can military action from Australia inside these countries be justified by them?

    You cannot blandly assert that military actions overseas are justified by Australia's interests without demonstrating exactly what you mean by that, and how such an assertion is relevant to a consideration of the ethics of the situation. At the moment, neither you not Mr Abbott has even attempted to make the necessary links between your statements and the available evidence.

    Now is not the time to allow your thinking to be dominated by untested and unsustainable cliches and truisms. Now, more than ever, it is important that we use our own individual intellects, and the information available to us, to make our own, individual judgements over whether or not Mr Abbott was justified in begging the US for a slice of the action.

    I can understand an Australian PM responding positively to a request for help, as Mr Hawke did in the second Gulf War (the first being the Iran/Iraq proxy-war) - even when I don't necessarily agree with the decision. But why should an Australian PM be so desperate to be included inthe action that he begs for an invitation? Why did Holt beg the US for a bigger role in Vietnam? Why did Howard beg Bush Junior for a role in the illegal invasion of Iraq? Why was Menzies so keen to beat up on the Malays and the Indonesians when they wanted independence?

    The only Tory PM since WW2 not to end up with blood in his hands (some of it Australian blood), was Fraser. Considering how many there have been, surely this suggests that the Tories have a record of allowing domestic political concerns dominate their deliberations on foreign policy.

    International Law makes it quite clear that there is NO legal justification for any form of aggressive military action. The ONLY justification under international law for war fighting is when such action is undertaken to defend one's own metropolitan territory if and when it comes under attack by a foreign state. Australia's metropolitan territory is not under threat and has not been attacked. We have no justification for going to war.

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    • Rasmuncher:

      16 Sep 2014 5:40:19pm

      The imperative is somewhat more bland and simplistic than any of that. They need to keep the industrial military complex fed. US manufacturing capability is 30% dedicated towards provisioning defense industries. If it is not functioning, it is a major slice of the US economy and in today's economic climate they cannot afford a downturn in that.

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      • v:

        16 Sep 2014 9:10:34pm


        I can't argue with that. You are quite right. But the US Military-Industrial Complex is simply the most recent incarnation of the ruling elites that have dominated European civilisation since the time of the Romans. That said, it is also true that the MIC represents a new and disturbing feature: while being the creation of human society, the MIC is anything but human. Its corporate nature makes it far more dangerous than the human elites it has replaced.

        The really weird thing about this is the first real warning that something was going badly wrong came from a right-wing military man by the name of Dwight D Eisenhower. His farewell speech as President of the US is quite an eye-opener. It's probably pretty easy to track down these days - Library of Congress website would be a pretty safe bet. I suspect that you would enjoy reading it.

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    • I think I think:

      16 Sep 2014 7:30:50pm

      Correct v. The premise is based on a truism.

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  • M:

    16 Sep 2014 4:27:47pm

    Yet another Islamic morass that we've jumped into without clear thinking and at the behest of our allies.

    The only thing the West will do here is muddy the waters even further.

    This is an Arab state problem requiring an Arab solution.

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  • hassa:

    16 Sep 2014 4:32:00pm

    The biggest problem with the continued civil unrest is down to the 1500 years of inbreeding that is still occurring in the muslim world today.

    You cannot keep dumbing down people and expect them to behave in a civilized manner, they must break the mould and start breeding with other cultures to clean up the blood lines otherwise they are doomed.!

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    • Dove:

      17 Sep 2014 1:34:03pm

      DNA markers don't support that. What's your basis?

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  • v:

    16 Sep 2014 4:42:58pm


    "Fifth, and finally, for many years to come Iran will have the largest degree of influence of any external player in regard to the future of Iraq,"

    Yes, it is rather ironic, considering that modern Iran is largely a creation of failed US foreign policy and, in particular, the support of the US for the former Shah of Iran and his brutal regime, which wiped out all of the moderate voices in Iranian opposition politics and left the field open for the rise of fundamenalist Islam as a political ideology. It is also ironic that the current debacle in Iraq is the direct result of the US' determination to destroy the new Islamic republic that grew from the Iranian Revolution, which led it to encourage Saddam Hussein to adopt an aggressive foreign policy, adn to provide it with the technology and materials to amass an arsenal of chemical and biological weapons that later became the (false) justification for the invasion of Iraq and the installation of a puppet government that was so corrupt and incompetent than it has now lost control of its own territory.

    Of course, none of this would have happened if the British and French had kept their promise to the Arab people in the early part of last century.

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  • old67:

    16 Sep 2014 4:43:20pm

    Here we go again nothing will change until these countries get there act together they never learn anything.

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    • v:

      17 Sep 2014 3:21:06pm


      "until these countries get there act together "

      That's the problem. There are plenty of countries in the middle east, but none (with the exception of Iran) is a nation. Countries are simply territories defined on maps. They have no existence apart from that. Australia is a country defined by the British Empire for its convenience. Syria is a country defined by France and England for their convenience. So is Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Yeman and the UAE sheikdoms. Israel is a country imposed on the area and populated by Europeans.

      I suspect that it is not these artificial, dysfunctional artificial countries who will "get there [sic] act together", but the Arab people themselves. And of course, the optimal time for this to have happened was at the end of WW1, when the Arab people were united under a single flag, having just won a huge victory over the Ottoman Empire. It was the betrayal of the Arabs by the British and French (read Lawrence's "Seven Pillars of Wisdom" for an eye-witness account of the betrayal) first in breaking up the Arab lands into despotic sheikdoms and kingdoms, and then by imposing a European enclave, filled with Arab-hating European fanatics, on the Mediterranean coast of Arabia.

      As a result of 100 years of western interference and treachery, it is highly likely that the Arab people will need a little help in "getting their act together as a coherent and cohesive nation, and there is little doubt that we have a deep moral responsibility to provide this help.

      But, in the meantime, we could avoid making things worse by cutting off aid and support for the tinpot "countries" imposed upon the region by the west: Saudi Arabia, Israel, the "Gulf States", Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and the rest must disappear before a stable, peaceful, secular, pan-Arab nation can emerge. Our actions at the moment are simply recruiting more young men and women for ISIS.

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  • Zulu:

    16 Sep 2014 4:48:52pm

    How come this bunch of mercenaries/militia are always able to successfully breakout from prisons? The kernel of this organisation began with a CIA staged jail break at Abu Ghraib prison, the military commanders of IS are allegedly former prisoners. How come foreign jihadists are able to form into units in such an organised manner, maybe the shocking truth is the western intelligence agencies are themselves instrumental in promoting and organising militant Islam, Islamic mosques in the west have been infiltrated and turned into recruitment centers. Wouldn't it be ironic if your were recruited on the grounds of ideological hatred for the west and ended up becoming a tool serving elite western interests? A mercenary army has little or no brain, but ends up just killing for the love of violence and chaos. The world is full of such young minds, you dont have to go to Arabia.

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    • v:

      17 Sep 2014 3:25:29pm


      "The kernel of this organisation began with a CIA staged jail break "

      If you want to stage a gaol break in Iraq, the CIA are the obvious people to ask.

      How do you think that Saddam got out of gaol after the failure of his first (US-backed) coup attempt? Who spirited him out of the country and set him up as a law student in Africa's most prestigious universities? Who spirited him back into Iraq in time for his successful coup?

      I don't have a lot of time for the CIA, but I must admit that, when it comes to getting dangerous criminals back onto the street, they are the undisputed experts.

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  • GrumpiSkeptic:

    16 Sep 2014 4:54:20pm

    The existence of Al Qaeda, and now its more vicious mutation ISIS, are the products of competing interests between the Arab nations.

    Osama Bin Laden was groomed by the CIA to counter the Soviets in Afghanistan. An obliging and obedient pup to the CIA, but it soon grew up to be a pit-bull which bit the hand that fed it!

    The never ending struggles between neighbouring Arab nations, each endeavors to gain the upper hand, have either directly or indirectly created this monster namely ISIS. It fed on the Sunni's discontents with the Iraqi's Shiite majority central government, and probably with some justifications. In some ways, it has answered the unhappy Sunni's questions.

    As it is now, the ISIS has occupied the Sunni majority regions. I often wonder if the ISIS was to tone down its reckless bahaviours, and to simply be content with what it has gained so far, it just might be accepted by most interested parties. However, being what it is, it is not just being destructive, it is also bloody mad!

    Would the new Coalition of the willing be able to defeat ISIS, or even "degrade" it, as Abbott suggested? Not bloody likely as long as each Arab nation has its own agenda.

    I am probably too old fashion as I believe that on most occasions, second best is almost as good as the best. When the West tried to degrade Syria by openly supporting the rebels, all it did was to create an opening for the other Arab nations which have an axe to grind with Syria to move in. As it is now, it is a stalemate. Assad is proving to be a hell of a lot stronger than the West and others believed. It is so because it has broad-base supports from various minorities, Iran and Russia. Furthermore, it is in its most dangerous when fighting with its back against the wall !

    Ignoring Iran and Syria is childish. Without them in the overall solution, it either won't succeed, or will failed eventually.

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    • Sarah:

      16 Sep 2014 7:05:23pm

      Well said Grumpy.Can you please explain it to Abbott and Shorten?

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    • v:

      17 Sep 2014 1:06:07pm


      "The existence of Al Qaeda, and now its more vicious mutation ISIS, are the products of competing interests between the Arab nations. "

      ISIS is not a "vicious mutation" of Al Qaeda - just a rather dangerous demaonstration of the incapacity of the US State Department to learn from its mistakes.

      Al Qaeda and ISIS are both creations of the US State Department, but they are not really related in any way other than their origins. They are completely seperate entities with very different and often contradictory agendas. Al Qaeda is a predominantly nihilist organisation dedicated to attacking and punishing the west for our sins. ISIS is, as the name suggests, a nationalist movement with the central aim of establishing a pan-Arab theocratic state similar to Israel, but with Islam being the dominant religion rather than Judaism. ISIS is just ONE of the many factions currently at war in Syria and, from what I can make out it appears that it is at war with most of its rival factions, as well as with the west.

      ISIS is the product of a vacuum left by the undermining and, in some cases, murder of every popular nationalist leader that the Arab people have produced. Vacuums are temporary phenomena. As soon as one exists, everything tries to rush in and claim the space. And this is how ISIS has risen to such prominence so quickly. They have latched on to the long-held desire of the Arab people for a state of their own, and have brilliantly exploited this legitimate desire for their own decidedly illegitimate purposes.

      The only real way tio deal with this is, I fear, to give the Arab people (not ISIS) what they really want (a secular, democratic homeland including all Arab lands from the Mediterranean to Iran. In so doing we would make ISIS irrelevant - steal their thunder if you like. The Arab people aren't asking us to give up anything - they simply want their right to nationhood respected. How can we justly refuse them?

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      • GrumpiSkeptic:

        17 Sep 2014 3:40:50pm


        " give the Arab people (not ISIS) what they really want (a secular, democratic homeland including all Arab lands..."

        Why is it that Arabs needed someone, I presume you meant the West, to give them democracy and all the rest? They must need to "want" it in the first place. Try to jam it down their throats, pretending it is all for their own good, will ultimately fail. Mind you, I really doubt those Arab countries wanted democracy in the first place.

        Turfing out Saddam Hussein from Iraq may seem like a very good idea as it was perceived by the wise guys and girls that once he is gone, everything will fall into places. Democracy and human rights will follow, as surely as day follows night. How bloody wrong it was.

        Of course, if one bothers to dig deeper, it was the oil that lubricate the passage ! Oh...Sorry, it was the WMD !

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  • Artful Dodger:

    16 Sep 2014 5:15:18pm

    The smartest lot in all of this have been the Saudis.They govern with the most extreme Islam under the planet.They have friend in big oil and high places.They funded others to fight their battles against Assad and Iran.When their child turned against them they now get US to fight for them.If IS does present the danger our leaders say it does why do we not get smart like the Saudis ang get Assad and Iran to sort them out .I reckon they could do it in less than four weeks and save us half a billion.Whatever happened to the budget emergency ?

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    • v:

      17 Sep 2014 1:26:26pm


      "They govern with the most extreme Islam under the planet."

      Yes, if you want to know what a state established by ISIS would be like, Saudi Arabia is a pretty good place to look. The Saudis have beheaded and mutilated thousands of their own citizens, and impose the same restrictions on human freedom proposed by ISIS. If we are really so repulsed by ISIS' vile acts that we are moved to take up arms, why does the same not apply to the brutal fundamentalist regimes in Saudi Arabia and the UAE states?

      Mr Abbott: please explain!

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  • Ron N:

    16 Sep 2014 5:24:32pm

    Relying on the other Arab states to reboot Arab values and institutions is like relying on a jackal to step in and sort out lions fighting over a carcass.

    The other Arab states have a vested interest in seeing opposing Islamic sects, Christians, Kurds, Yazidis (who are Kurds anyway), and probably 20 other minority tribes and groups, suffer huge losses under IS butchery.

    The largest percentage of ISlamics (pun intended), live to fight and murder. They worship a God of Hatred and Intolerance, and believe in the total denigration and 100% submission of women.

    These Middle Easterners do not deserve any help or support from the West - they are our lifelong bitter enemies, and we should not risk one dollar or one Australian life, in what has been a murderous battlefield of tribal and religious hatreds for over 2000 years.

    Nothing we do, and no amount of money we ever spend, will ever change the fact that they hate the West with perennial hatred.

    There is several things we can do.

    Refuse to buy Arab oil and concentrate on utilising our own energy sources.

    Cut off the money flow to terrorists, dictators and the other assorted groups who oppose the West. The West controls the world banking system.

    Strictly enforce embargos on the movement of new vehicles and weaponry to these groups (how many new Toyota utes fitted with armaments have suddenly appeared amongst these groups?).

    The basic problems are, that there are no leaders with statesman-like ability amongst the Arabs - and no leaders in the West with the guts to take on the massive global defence/military contractor industries, and who can stop arms shipments to people who will eventually use those armaments against us and our troops.

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    • Stirrer:

      16 Sep 2014 7:01:56pm

      The problem is Ron that the Arab Gulf States are part of the cabal of of the US led Military/Industrial/Banking/Energy Complex which owns Western Governments. And you are right-there is not one Western leader with the guts to tell it as it is.

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  • Peter Schmidt:

    16 Sep 2014 5:39:40pm

    9 11 was a Gulf State initiative.

    ISiS was/is Gulf State initiative.

    The Syrian insurrection was/is Gulf State initiative.

    And we call them our 'allies'.


    Why are these videos of the beheading's coming to the world through a shady organisation with close links to the White House through a group called SITE, ran by a woman called Rita Katz? Without these events, what exactly would the West have?

    We are told that these videos show Foley and Soltoff being executed but they don't actually show such a thing. We were told over and over again about the videos, but reminded that they if we watched them we were helping ISIS, therefore we shouldn't watch them!

    BTW, Syrian 'moderate' rebels are joining ISIS in the thousands.

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  • Dove:

    16 Sep 2014 5:40:54pm

    A rebel group in a middle eastern civil that no-one had heard of 90 days ago now have people now convinced that they pose a threat, and that Australia has somehow been singled out for their wrath. Television news is for entertainment- it's not meant to be believed

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  • Blue Waffle:

    16 Sep 2014 6:52:56pm

    If the US really wanted to destroy IS, they'd let the Iranians at them.

    USA doesnt want them destroyed (in fact they created and protected them in Syria), they want a permanent war footing because war is good business.

    War may be an expensive business, but its the nil-tender contracts for companies like Kellogs and Halliburton that make billions, while only poor kids do the dying. whats not to love for the elites?

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    • Dove:

      17 Sep 2014 1:31:31pm

      Sure. War is only expensive for taxpayers. It's great for shareholders

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  • bill:

    16 Sep 2014 6:54:14pm

    currently ISIS are murderous thugs.

    IF they get what they are after in a fight with the US, they become Islamic heroes fighting against an evil western oppressor.

    why would we give them what they are after?

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  • Pete:

    16 Sep 2014 7:03:37pm

    "It is fitting for Australia to be part of a global effort to address the challenges ahead for the region"

    I completely disagree. The only long-term solution for the dysfunctional state of Arab states is for them to resolve their own problems, by themselves. The West's involvement in yet another misguided intervention just staves off the requirement for the peoples of these nations to sort out their own deep-seated, internecine strife. All we're doing is attempting to assuage our own western guilt about bad people doing bad things to each other (a very post-enlightenment, Christian attitude), when the protagonists don't hold the same views. The best strategy for the west is to disengage from the region (including Israel) all together. A bit of isolationism is in our best interests, and probably theirs in the long term too. In practical terms, the problem should be put fairly and squarely at the foot of the Saudis, given they're most responsible for creating the IS monster, and have the resources to sort it out. While they're doing this, they should also look at the role of Islam with its ready-made handbook that is so easily co-opted to justify the atrocities - another issue the west can have no valid role in doing. Our efforts should be restricted to discussing and debating Islam in Australia's functional, pluralistic and secular society - a conversation well overdue, and held off or delayed I believe because of the fear of offence.

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  • Arthur J:

    16 Sep 2014 7:31:16pm

    I often wonder about the seriousness and intensity of some of these articles.

    Point 6. Israel and its refusal to abide by UN resolutions or live within its boundaries. Is this part of the real equation or can't we mention this for fear of offending?

    Keep avoiding the obvious and we have silly, circuitous arguments.

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  • anote:

    16 Sep 2014 8:31:49pm

    "That is not to argue against an Australian commitment to the struggle against IS. It is fitting for Australia to be part of a global effort to address the challenges ahead for the region, so long as we remember that our military contribution needs to be seen as a part of a wider struggle, necessarily within the region itself, to address the issues that have brought us to this point."

    What is it that makes it fitting?

    Are we really so threatened? I note that our anticipated spending on this military intervention vastly exceeds (very many times) our anticipated spending to control reflected problems of returning jihadists. More importantly, I noted our defence minister's evasion of this point when questioned by Leigh Sales a night or so ago on 7:30 Report.

    Where does morality fit in the picture?

    These important questions are not being adequately answered by our leaders. With Abbott it is basically an untrustworthy person saying 'trust me' (his humanitarian reason has already been shown to be very dubious). Shorten's, I do not see any alternative, is not a reason for it in the first place.

    Has a cost benefit analysis been done? That question is not to be flippant but to highlight our leaders' inconsistency and failure to be adequately convincing. Am I against IS and in favour of humanitarian assistance? Yes but that is not the point. Dislike and emotion is not good enough when the cure could be worse than the illness.

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  • Stephen S:

    16 Sep 2014 9:07:06pm

    It is NOT fitting for Australia to be part of a global effort to battle the Islamic State. And it is NOT a global effort! It is the US and its Allies, invasion of another country for imperialistic reason, and that is oil and gas!

    The US, UK, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Israel, HAVE ALL BEEN funding and suppling military hardware to ISIL for the sole reason of over throwing the Syrian Assad Regime, though due to the growth in membership of ISIL, they have decided to make their own move, in preference to the royalties being paid by the US and Allies.

    This is the US's dirty little mess, let them clean it up, but you can be sure that ISIL will live on, with 100% certainty! This is NOT Australia's war, we have NO business going there, not even for humanitarian reasons, which is just an excuse to invade someone's country. Syria, is a Sovereign country, and they reserve the right to shoot down any aircraft or military unit, and believe me, they will, and they are quite prepared for US and any other country that wages war against them, and rightfully so! ISIL is no threat to Australia, nor any other nation, because they are the birth-child of the US and Allies! The threat from terrorism is Obama's and Abbotts last call to bolster their plummeting electoral votes. It is also an EXCUSE to implement further spying measures on the population, in preparation for the New World Order, after the collapse of the EU, which is what Obama is doing, in implementing all of the sanctions against Russia. Yes, we are all aware that the effect on the EU's economy, and so is Obama, with the collapse of the EU will come the collapse of the rest of the world, and then when we are all vunerable and pennyless, the IMF will come to the rescue and introduce an new SDR currency or basket of currencies backed by the SDR (backed by? rubbish). This will replace the dollar as we know, and Obama will rein as the new world leader with a real new neo-con political system! Sound exciting? Wait until it arrives!

    If you believe what I have written above as trash, consider this. There is a MAJOR breakout of EBOLA, that needs MASSIVE amounts of money to rein in some control, though funds are NOT forthcoming. Why? Yet they can wage war in the ME and Ukraine, at a cost of billions? Does this sound like a compassionate and caring government and global leaders?

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    • Stew:

      17 Sep 2014 3:27:30pm

      We're through the looking glass here, people!

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  • Rashid:

    16 Sep 2014 10:56:07pm

    " address the issues that have brought us to this point"

    prof. Bower, if that is what you are suggesting then we should first investigate our participation in the so called coalition with Big brother. Is that not that what has brought us to this point?

    "Supporting such a process will have its full share of trade-offs, moral ambiguities and un intended consequences"

    Did we not know what those consequences were then when we went all the way with USA on the first time here, and many times at other places too?

    If so, where were all the academic boffins of the think tanks then?

    Are trying to undo what we did then or are we purposefully doing the same thing again?

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  • michael clarke:

    16 Sep 2014 11:08:23pm

    We have no business jumping in to an Abbot led crusade into the middle east no matter what the level of atrocity perpetrated by ISIL. The motives of the arab world and the USA are indeed murky as the leader of Iran has said. There is much self interest at play and an underlying motive to remove assad and sadly turn Syria into another Libya. That Abott and Shorten would so willingly put Australians lives on the line for the power plays and greed of other nations is a significant crime on the Australian people. No Shorten and Abbot we are not anxious we are appalled. Let the countries surrounding ISIL sort out the issues, no boots on the ground. We dont see new zealand or indonesai or malaysia or vietnam volunteering to fight ISIL, then why should we.

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  • foolking:

    17 Sep 2014 12:51:15am

    Thank you for this informative article, the more information that can be represented and digestested the better, the jigsaw is beginning to take shape.

    As someone else mentioned wouldn't we be better off spending money on trying to save lives in Africa with Ebola rather than killing people in Iraq?

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  • Coogara:

    17 Sep 2014 8:14:32am

    The only real reason Australia is entering a conflict with ISIL is because of the US alliance. Obviously Abbott has to put some level of rationality around the deployment but otherwise it is only indirectly in Australia's interests. As the author points out, the complexity of the situation means a great deal of success is not guaranteed.

    ISIL is an ideology that springs from Islam. It is foolish to suggest that there is no connection between the two. ISIL enjoys success because it is perceived to successfully carry out what other muslims just talk and preach about. Islam is unlike Christianity and Buddhism because its founder was not simply just a preacher like Christ and Buddha, but was also a politician who laid the foundations of an Islamic state. hence the central theme of an Islamic state is always there in Islam. It really is just a question how muslims interpret this in the modern world. The Islamic Council that advocated a few years ago the establishment of sharia law demonstrates that this thinking is there with many who would be deemed "moderates". Therefore it is difficult to destroy an ideology such as ISIL because it constitutes views that a very large number of muslims agree with albeit many will also disagee with its methods. There can be no certainty that muslim soldiers sent to fight ISIL will not defect or not become radicalised by the experience.

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    • Graeme Bird:

      17 Sep 2014 8:31:15am

      ISIL does not spring from Islamic ideology. It springs from third party sponsorship and oligarchical ideology.

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      • Coogara:

        17 Sep 2014 8:51:13am

        Graeme, Islamic communities are the seed bed for ISIL. It is an ideology based on Islam whose adherents will be able to quote from the Koran verses that support their stance. After all, Islam started as a combined religious and political force. ISIL are nothing more than a modern version of Islam in its beginnings. Of course initial success of ISIL was dependent on sponsorship.

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        • Artful Dodger:

          17 Sep 2014 9:28:07am

          So what you seem to be saying Coogara is that Islamis communties are no different to extreme Jewish or Christian communities-after all their ideology is based on the Old Testament and whose adherents will be able to quote verses from their Bibles to support their stances-like God's Promised Land.

          And both sets of adherents are dependent on sponsorships- mostly moneyed sponsorships.

          They have a lot in common- one side comdemns the evil of the other while engaging in similar evils.

          Hopefully, in time; both communties will denounce their sponsors and learn to live together in peace and respect.

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        • Coogara:

          17 Sep 2014 9:57:28am

          AD: Yes, fundamentalists are all much the same regardless of the religion. Islam however can be said to be extremist in comparison to Christianity and Buddhism. Christianity and Buddhism lend themselves much more to an emphasis solely on the spiritual whereas Islam is also about politics and demands on the social such as food habits and clothing. Even moderate Islam is as extreme as or more extreme than some Christian cults.

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        • Artful Dodger:

          17 Sep 2014 11:02:47am

          Yet Christianity has a much more violent history than Buddhism or Islam. I would say ALL religions are political-they are so useful to vested interests.

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        • Coogara:

          17 Sep 2014 11:27:59am

          AD: Yes Christianity has been used to justify crimes but the new testament certainly is focused on the spiritual rather than the social and political. Islam however from its inception has had three dimensions: the social (clothing and food); the political; and the spiritual. It would for example be unheard of a Christian in Australian wanting a group of clergy forming a government. However there are many muslims in Australia who would like the government to be a group of imams. This is of course the door way to ISIL.

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        • Michael:

          17 Sep 2014 1:19:06pm

          You are in denial about Islam it has been and is far more violent than Christianity has ever been. Lefties always criticise Christianity which they hate and make excuses for Islam at every opportunity. No one in their right mind could even remotely put Buddhism in the same category as Islam unless they are from the left side of politics.

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        • Dove:

          17 Sep 2014 1:29:29pm

          I'm not too sure about that. Buddhism has a track record for racism, violence, repression of women, being ant democratic and oppression of minorities.

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    • anote:

      17 Sep 2014 9:08:00am

      "Obviously Abbott has to put some level of rationality around the deployment but otherwise it is only indirectly in Australia's interests." It is not obvious at all. Indeed the evidence is otherwise. It might even be more of a reflex for Abbott.

      One thing Abbott got right is that ISIL probably more of a cult. The primary connection of ISIL with the Islam is that Islam serves as an excuse to seek power over others; just as "Christian" cults abuse Christianity.

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  • Oaktree:

    17 Sep 2014 9:26:45am

    Thank you Bob. The Middle East has honed it's political skills through the ages. The West should reflect on that.

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  • Malcolm in the Middle:

    17 Sep 2014 9:32:08am

    Meanwhile Abbott is running an ethnic and racist fear campaign directed against huge swathes of the Muslim community here in Australia. I cannot see how that is helping anything but to strengthen doubt in the mind of Australians about taking refugees.

    Abbott and his sidekick Bishop certainly won't win any friends amongst decent muslims here or abroad.

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    • Coogara:

      17 Sep 2014 10:10:50am


      Obviously there is a lot of shouting from muslims some of whom are sympathetic to ISIL. To date however there has been nothing of a draconian nature from the government to deal with internal security.

      Terrorists are not to be found in your local Baptist or Anglican church service. However they may be present in your local mosque. It is a reality that the muslim community is the seed bed for terrorists so it is reasonable to target this community in finding ways of reducing the threat. if there are no votes from muslims for doing this then so be it.

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    • anote:

      17 Sep 2014 10:22:10am

      I am far from an Abbott supporter but he is not "running an ethnic and racist fear campaign directed against huge swathes of the Muslim community here in Australia." That the way the goes about things might sometimes have that effect is another matter.

      "Abbott and his sidekick Bishop certainly won't win any friends amongst decent muslims here or abroad." The evidence is otherwise and what indecent Muslim would be his friend?

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  • Arthur J:

    17 Sep 2014 10:26:35am

    Meanwhile as the debate rages, back in Australia the elected council of Gold Coast City has crumbled under the pressure of local threats of violence from a group of concerned citizens (read thugs) and have not allowed the building of a mosque.

    It seems that stand over tactics won the day. So you threaten a council and you get your way. Time to investigate influence peddling within the Gold Coast City Council.

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  • phowitt:

    17 Sep 2014 1:25:14pm

    what a ride we are meant to take thanks to australian politcs .. so far i only see us doing us foreign policy .. no mention of the dozens of kids that died after a botched batch of measels injections for kids in syria thanks the the UN.. wonder if they actually attempting the hearts and minds routine .. the propaganda war rages on

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  • Cloud Spirit:

    17 Sep 2014 2:02:14pm

    At the risk of sounding like a bit of a hippy, the real problem in all of this is that there is no love in the world. Seriously, that is the problem. It is true to say that only the Arabs can solve this problem, but the Arabs have very little love in their religion and in their society. Their religion seems to be more about hatred and violence, than it is about love, and if everyone is too PC to say so, well, I think that is pathetic. They treat their women like animals and that is not how loving people would treat another human being - let alone their own mothers, sisters and daughters.

    The response from the rest of the world to this violence is to unleash yet more violence, and we all know this will not solve any problems - at least not in the long term. It was the interference of the Western nations into Iraq previously that has probably given rise to the super-violent ISIL.

    People simply have to choose love (compassion) over hatred (violence) and it doesn't matter which side of the fence a person is sitting on. Seriously, it is that simple.

    What do the Arabs want? Unending cycles of violence? Or do they want to treat other people with kindness and decency? It is that simple. As far as I am concerned, it is a no-brainer. Just do it.

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    • Dove:

      17 Sep 2014 3:27:36pm

      You are confusing our allies, the Saudi Kingdom with the rest of the middle east. The Iraqi cabinet has more women than ours. The Islamic revolution in Iran has lead to a staggering increase in the social, academic and professional lives of women. There are female politicians and female rights activists in Syria.

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  • Gendarme:

    17 Sep 2014 2:02:18pm

    Tony Abbott yesterday: "No Australian ground forces shall be in Iraq".

    Tony Abbott today:"Australian troops are on their way to Iraq and shall stay there permanently and as long as required by the US Administration".

    Australian Government yesterday: "IS fighters are great heroes and freedom fighters who wage war against the brutal regime of the dictator Bashar Al-Asad. We are sending them weapons and extra amunition so they may succeed in their heroic revolution".

    Australian Government today:" ISIL fighters are terrorists and barbarians. We are going to gradually degrade and destroy them".

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  • William:

    17 Sep 2014 3:43:43pm

    What a pleasure to read this analysis

    Structured, educated, professional and objective .. From somebody who actually knows what they are talking about.

    Unfortunately unlike many of the respondents who lapsed into the usual tired, predictable partisan, tribal verbiage.

    Somebody on the same subject a day or so ago actually said the killing of bin laden could be regarded as a war crime.

    Try telling that to the relatives of the 9/11 victims. Truly pathetic.

    More sensible pieces like this please.

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