The new crusade is to go to Syria to defeat ISIS. It made no sense back in July when UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon suggested it and it made even less sense when Liberal MP Dan Tehan, the head of parliament's intelligence and security committee, tried to sell the idea here a month later. There is every reason to suspect that Tony Abbott heard the US-NATO rumor and asked to join in for domestic political reasons.
I will try to summarize the political background as to why we shouldn't be going into Syria but Mike Whitney has covered many of these ideas in greater detail in his article "Ankara: the New Capital of Jihad" (20 Aug 2015). Patrick Cockburn and Philip Giraldi also provide valuable explanations.
Turkey has turned on the Kurds, both politically inside Turkey and in military attacks in Syria. The Syrian Kurds have responded by sounding out an alliance with the Assad regime, considering, essentially, switching sides.
Turkey is doing so for two reasons:
(1) President Ergodan has megalomania ambitions and is hoping for domestic electoral success.
(2) He is trying to carve off parts of Syria to add to the Turkish state.
As with every country in the region -- along with the US -- Erdogan still places the defeat of Assad above all other goals. But Turkey faces two key obstacles:
(1) The Assad regime is entrenched and shows no sign of crumbling soon.
(2) The Kurds have established control over regions bordering Turkey.
What prompted Turkey into action was a suicide bombing in the Turkish border town of Suruc on July 20 that killed 32 people and injured over 100, mostly ethnic Kurds. Members of the PKK killed two policeman in Ceylanpinar two days later in response. Turkey invoked the NATO alliance and was able to obtain NATO approval for Turkish action against the Kurdish "terrorists" in Syria provided Turkey signed up for a US war on ISIS.
The West however has ignored that Turkey has been a prime co-conspirator of ISIS (and to a lesser extent al Nusra). Turkish convoys supply ISIS, provide medical assistance to them and weapons and training. They also trade in ISIS oil (Erdogan's son appears to be involved). German Intelligence in particular has noted the connections. (Understand, this is a member of NATO we are talking about here, an Australian ally in the Middle East actively assisting ISIS).
The US, along with Israel, has always wanted Kurdish enclaves carved out in Syria so they could later negotiate with a Kurdish state for oil and gas pipelines to the Mediterranean which they would control. Turkish attacks upon the Kurds threaten all of this -- and they still have the problem of defeating ISIS and Assad!
So how are they to control the situation? They know that they have no chance through the UN of establishing a no-fly zone in Syria for two reasons:
(1) Russia and China acquiesced at the UN to a no-fly zone in Libya in 2011. Supposedly to protect Libyan civilians it was used instead by NATO to protect insurgents in the Eastern part of Libya the leading fighting groups of whom NATO knew for a fact to be al Qaeda. Libya is now a failed state of warring jihadists and neither Russia or China will repeat that mistake with Syria.
(2) Russia in particular knows full well that a defeated Assad regime means an Islamic caliphate in Syria which would serve as a base for Western and Saudi sponsored jihadist attacks against Russia and Iran. They are not going to let that happen and they will militarily support Assad if he is further threatened. They, and Hezbollah, have said exactly that. Iran and Russia have designated troops to go into Syria if the situation worsens and Russia has recently sent 6 high-tech fighter aircraft to assist the Assad regime. Despite this, Russia has been prominent in seeking a diplomatic solution (in truth the only practical way of defeating not just ISIS but all the jihadists).
How is the US to control the situation if they can't get a UN approval for a no-fly zone? How to deal with an aggressive Turkey going into Syria? Simple. They will wage a popular war against ISIS. It will provide a pretext for Western fighter aircraft against the Assad regime inside Syria and political legitimacy for establishing "safe havens" there ostensibly free from ISIS forces.
What the US has also said (but which Western media has refused to pick up on) is that Assad forces will be kept out of those enclaves by force, even if they are engaged in fighting ISIS forces.
That should give the game away immediately. This is a NATO-US dismemberment of Syria under the guise of fighting ISIS. Now note the second barrel of this deadly political shotgun:
There are no effective secular forces for occupying these safe havens.
Why? Because Turkey is conducting a war against the Kurds and driving them away from Turkish border regions and the much touted Free Syrian Army simply does not exist in any significant fashion.
So who is going to occupy these so-called "safe havens" (an idea first proposed by the US as far back as Dec 2014)? It will be other Saudi and Western sponsored jihadist forces such as al Nusra or Ahrar al-Sham. Al Nusra have conducted beheadings, rapes and atrocities just like ISIS but the US leadership has made a concerted effort to rebrand them to the Western media, the US Congress and Western governments as "moderates" who can be supported against Assad. Al Nura have refused the makeover and publicly affirmed their political alliance with al Qaeda in Syria. They look to establish a caliphate and sharia law if Assad is removed and will conduct genocide against a million Alawites if they ever come to power there. There is also good reason to believe that they were behind the 2013 sarin gas attack in Ghouta which was falsely blamed on the Assad regime, again with what appears to be Turkish government assistance.
Turn now to the operations stage of the US plan. They have negotiated an agreement with Turkey for US aircraft to fly out of Incirlik air base, 15 minutes from Syria rather than 2 hours from Bahrain. Critically, Turkey gets the final authority on US flights and can refuse them.
“Turkey wants to open Incirlik not only to US warplanes but also to the aircraft of anti-IS NATO members France, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Canada. What Turkey wants to accomplish here is to affix NATO legitimacy to the operation by reinforcing the perception that operations against IS targets in Syria are part of a NATO mission.
Turkey insists that operations, flight routes and targets should be decided collectively by the coordination cell, but subject to Turkey’s final approval.
This means decisions made at Incirlik must be conveyed to Ankara immediately. The coordination center in Ankara must be kept informed of all operations and flights in real time with Incirlik.
Ankara is trying to insert a clause that gives it the authority to send back the coalition planes in case of contravention of the agreement.
There is another problem that looms very large for Australian fighter jets targeting ISIS. They have no intelligence on the location of ISIS targets and are reliant upon US and Turkish intelligence. Spot the problem here? Australians could be sent to bomb Assad or PKK positions without them even being aware of it.
Given the fact that Turkey is in bed with ISIS Australian forces could be bombing for ISIS not at them!
Perhaps we should ponder also what happened to 54 moderate rebels trained up by the US in Turkey and sent into Syria just a week ago. They were captured in 10 minutes by al Nusra and their sources said they had been informed of their arrival by Turkish officials. Are our fighter aircraft immune to ISIS stinger missiles?
It's a political minefield, quite aside from the questionable legal basis being put forward by the Abbott government for our forces to be sent there.
And don't forget either that Aussie fighter jets could come up against Russian jets in a fight not in our neighborhood nor in our interest.
The political aims of this exercise are entirely fraudulent. However much the West and the US might say they want to defeat ISIS they are hamstrung by the fact that Turkey is out to destroy the most effective forces fighting against ISIS, and none of the participants are prepared to forgo their primary aim which is the defeat of the Assad government. None of them are prepared to forgo their active support for their own sponsored jihadist killers committed to a caliphate.
However minimal our military involvement we are signing up for regime change.
We should not be going into Syria.
We should not be going into Syria.
Seymour Hersh (2007): US policy framework for ME regime change
Former US ambassador to Syria argues against arming and supporting rebels
Israel Lobby Supports Jabhat Al-Nusra (2014)
Israel Lobby Supports Jabhat Al-Nusra (2014)