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30 August 2014

Dear members, supporters, readers and well-wishers,

Welcome to the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry bulletin.

Earlier this week US officials told the New York Times they will expect Australian assistance if the US intensifies its bombing raids on Islamic State (IS) forces. With RAAF Super Hornets ready and waiting, and hyperbole around the threat IS poses to Australia more magnified, it increasingly feels like we will soon be once again militarily involved in Iraq.

As Independent MP Andrew Wilkie points out, the different circumstances in Iraq today from 2003 should not diminish the need for parliamentary approval to deploy combat forces. There is a real likelihood that IS will not be defeated with air strikes alone, meaning this would be another step towards Australian boots on the ground in Iraq, not only fighting IS, but patching up the larger mess that will be left behind.

In October, Obama will face the difficult task of seeking congressional approval to continue his military mission in Iraq. If the UK decides to join the battle against IS, it too will have to gain approval from its parliament.

War powers reform in Australia, to require parliamentary approval for sending troops overseas, is not merely about restricting the power of government of the day. It is about ensuring our decision for foreign military action is fully considered and consistently just. This is the most feasible option for ensuring we do not repeat the mistakes that led to our 2003 Iraq invasion. 

In this edition:  
Enjoy reading,
Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry

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Terror hits home: US said to be seeking allies for Iraq bombing raids

Sydney Morning Herald reports:

"Australia's Defence Chief has warned the brutal Islamic State group will sooner or later have to be defeated ‘on the battlefield’, as the United States was reportedly preparing to ask Australia for help with air strikes in Iraq.

“[…]His remarks came as the
New York Times quoted unnamed US officials as saying that Washington was looking for possible help with military operations in Iraq and Syria and would likely include Australia among partners.

“[…]Mr Abbott's office played down any prospect of immediate involvement by Australia, with a spokeswoman saying that ‘at this stage the United States has not made any formal request of us’[...] ‘The Prime Minister has made it clear that Australia is ready to continue our humanitarian involvement in Iraq … To consider such a request from the United States, or other close allies and partners, there would have to be an achievable overall humanitarian purpose, a clear and proportionate role for Australia and a careful assessment of the risks.’

"Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop confirmed that cabinet's National Security Council had considered a request from the autonomous Kurdish government in Iraq's north - a close ally of the West - for help with weapons supplies to fight the Islamic State.”

Tony Abbott at risk of repeating Iraq War mistake: Wilkie, Bandt

The Australian reports:

"' Eleven years ago we helped start a war that has run for 11 and a half years that has created the circumstances in which these so-called jihadists are now running riot across the country and committing terrible atrocities,' [Independent MP Andrew Wilkie] said in Hobart.

“'The other regrettable dimension is that the government is at real risk of repeating the mistake of 11 and a half years ago of a prime minister, virtually alone, declaring war in another country.'[...] 'The fact the circumstances on the ground are different in no way diminishes the fact that the deployment of combat forces must be with the approval of the parliament.'

"Mr Wilkie has seconded a Greens-sponsored bill that would require parliamentary approval before any troops are deployed overseas. [...Greens deputy leader Adam Bandt said that] 'Australia needs to join other democracies that say some form of parliamentary debate and approval is needed before we deploy our troops overseas including to Iraq.’ [...]'We’ve seen what has happened in the past in Iraq, it has made the problem worse,'[...] 'We were told last time that military intervention would prevent these kinds of atrocities from happening in the first place and that’s clearly not the case.'

See also: Crikey says: Parliament must debate airstrikes on IS (paywall)

Retracing our steps on the March into Iraq

Crikey reports:

"It’s a good time to be in defence stocks in the US currently — they’ve all outperformed the market: Lockheed Martin shares are up 8.4% since President Obama announced airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq. Raytheon is up 8%. General Dynamics is up over 8%. Northrop Grumman is up 6%. The Dow’s only up 4%; the Nasdaq 5.4%, the S&P 500 just 4.7%. All the companies’ shares have hit historical highs this week. And rightly so: we’re on the cusp of another major intervention in Iraq, and most likely in Syria as well, one that even Barack Obama says will be an extended effort.

"[...] all the pieces falling into place for a re-run — albeit, for now, on a smaller scale — of the misbegotten Iraq venture, that US$2 trillion exercise in significantly reducing both Iraqi life expectancy and the safety of Western citizens.
The parallels are fascinating:

Australia's potential military role in Iraq is limited, strategic experts say

The Guardian reports:

"The executive director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Peter Jennings, and the Lowy Institute’s military fellow, James Brown, said Tony Abbott appeared to be trying to push the US to adopt a stronger global leadership role.

"[...] Brown, who served in Iraq, called on the government to carefully consider the implications of a greater role for Australia.[...]He said it was not clear what Australia’s objective would be beyond supporting the US alliance, and the involvement might largely be symbolic. The US had already carried out airstrikes.

"'If we wanted to we could contribute to that but I think from the way it was phrased [in media reports] we would be contributing with the objective of helping to support the US alliance more than anything else'[...] 'It’s not clear that contributing Australian military aircraft would tip the military balance against Isis in a way that would be decisive.'

" Jennings said Abbott wanted Australia 'to be much more on the front foot' in using its military capability as a broad instrument of foreign policy. [...] 'I think Australia’s only really effective role is to urge more coherent action on the Americans. But we really don’t have the military wherewithal to play an independent role at this stage.'

"Jennings said Australia could do more in the way of air drops for humanitarian purposes and “limited training” for local forces. Special forces would not be a smart move for Australia in absence of a larger response, he said."

Obama, Iraq, and the coming war powers fight with Congress

Defense One analysis:

"As the United States military’s intervention in Iraq intensifies, so does the debate between legislative and executive branch officials about President Barack Obama’s muscular use of war powers.
"In the past ten weeks, Obama has authorized the first U.S. combat operations in Iraq since the war ended in 2011, and sent in roughly 1,000 U.S. troops.

"The U.S. operation in Iraq is likely to extend beyond the 60-day limit under the War Powers Resolution that triggers congressional approval, meaning Obama may need a different authority to continue the fight. The president has used the sweeping 2001 Authorization of the Use of Military Force, or AUMF, to fight terrorist groups across the globe, but many argue it was primarily intended to authorize combat operations in Afghanistan, which officially end in December. The latest Iraq intervention represents what may be Congress’s last, best opportunity to rein in the dramatic expansion of the commander-in-chief’s authority to wage war that has occurred in the last 13 years.

"The irony is that Obama just one year ago declared he would cut back the very authority his aides are now reconsidering. He pledged to chart a new path forward when he laid out his vision for a new comprehensive national security strategy to guide U.S. foreign policy.[...]"


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The views expressed in this bulletin are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry (Inc). Readers should note that the Campaign for an Iraq war Inquiry (Inc) seeks a diversity of views and opinions in order to identify common ground.

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