Australia is considering pushing its military from Iraq into Syria to combat continuous Islamic State (IS) extremist attacks in the area.
One of Australia’s top security officials said on Thursday that Australia needed to start bombing Syria, regardless of whether it painted a target on the nation’s back.
Liberal MP Dan Tehan, the chairman of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, told Fairfax Radio that bombing Syria was “logical”.
Later on Thursday, Prime Minister Tony Abbott confirmed he had been in talks with Coalition partners about extending its airstrikes against IS to Syria.
Australia currently has F18 Hornet’s operating against IS insurgents over Iraq, but if the proposed plan was implemented, that commitment would move across the border into Syria.
Mr Abbott had privately told the US he would support the expansion of Australian Hornet operations into Syria, News Corp reported.
He never ruled out bombing Syria, but had raised doubts about the legality of Australia operating in an “ungoverned space with a regime we don’t recognise”.
However, on Thursday, he appeared to be more open to the idea.
“While the legality is different whether these airstrikes are taking place in Syria or Iraq, the morality is the same,” Mr Abbott said.
“The death cult is just as evil on either side of the border, it’s just as dangerous either side of the border and it’s just as deadly on either side of the border.”
But Syria’s president Bashar al-Assad has condemned US airstrikes on targets in Syria, saying they have helped recruit new fighters to Islamic State’s cause, the ABC reported.
RAAF warplanes have been bombing IS targets in Iraq since September and Mr Tehan said more needed to be done to reverse this issue.
“My view is we are already in the sights of Daesh, and we need to do more to counter this,” Mr Tehan told Fairfax Radio on Thursday.
“It is also in our humanitarian interest to do so.
“I think the time has come to expand our bombings into Syria.
“I think that’s a logical thing to do to show that we’re prepared to act.”
However, the Federal Opposition has warned it would be “very dangerous” for Australia to accept a push from a government backbencher to expand Australian airstrikes from Iraq into Syria.
Labor’s Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said there was “no clear legal basis” for Australia to move beyond the existing Iraqi commitment.
“I think it would be very dangerous to send Australian personnel into one of the most dangerous places on Earth right now,” Ms Plibersek told ABC’s AM program.
“I think it’s extraordinary, frankly, that the Government sent out a backbencher to start floating ideas without any clear proposal, without any explanation to the Australian people of what the legal basis would be, what the mission would be, what success would look like, what our personnel would be expected to do, and how this would fit in with what the rest of the international community is doing.”
She said the Prime Minister must have the “courage” to go into Parliament and make the case for any expanded role.
David Kilcullen, a prominent Australian counter-insurgency expert who was a key military architect of the 2007 US military “surge” in Iraq, explains that IS is now larger and more potent than Al Qaeda ever dreamed of being at its pre-2001 peak.
Writing in his Quarterly Essay, Blood Year – Terror and the Islamic State, he notes the West now faced “a larger, more-unified, capable, experienced and savage enemy in a less stable more fragmented region”.
IS hackers threaten Australians
Meanwhile, Federal Justice Minister Michael Keenan confirmed on Thursday that personal details of eight Australians, including a politician and soldiers, were revealed publicly by IS terrorist hackers.
Australian terror recruiter Neil Prakash first shared a link to the spreadsheet of 1400 names on social media, which included phone numbers and email addresses, Fairfax Media and News Corp reported on Thursday.
Australian Defence Force employees and a Victorian MP were on the list, which IS claimed it had obtained by hacking US government and military computers.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said police were confident the MP’s safety was being handled appropriately.
“We take the matter seriously and there’s been some discussions with that person. His safety and the safety of his family is very important,” Mr Andrews said
Mr Abbott said he needed more information about the breach before he could comment further, however he did re-enforce his “death cult” warnings.
“This death cult is currently in control of a vast swathe of territory … do not underestimate what these people can do,” he said.
“It is important that, as quickly as we can, this death cult is disrupted, degrading and destroyed.”
– with AAP