DAN TEHAN | Herald Sun | August 13, 2015
The time has come for Australia to join the military coalition seeking to destroy Daesh in Syria.
We are acting in Iraq against Daesh with our Hornets launching air strikes on a regular basis. We should be doing the same in Syria.
We should also be calling on the global community to do more in Syria.
It is in our interests to end the suffering of its civilians and to degrade the Daesh “caliphate”, which continues to shine as a beacon for global terrorism.
Syria is not only the world’s greatest humanitarian disaster, but a growing threat to global security.
I’ve heard this first-hand in the UK, France and the US.
In Iraq, our armed forces are working with our international partners to help the Iraqis free themselves.
But why do we continue to ignore the suffering of innocent Syrians?
Northern Syrians face a future at the mercy of Daesh unless the world acts.
The current crisis in Syria has created 9.3 million internally displaced or external refugees, more than Iraq, South Sudan, Sudan and Somalia combined.
In 1999, the UN Security Council approved action in Kosovo when only 230,000 civilians had been displaced.
Yet Kosovo, Rwanda and Somalia tell the tale of the mess that is being created in Syria today. If the world believes it can ignore Syria by distance, we’re kidding ourselves.
One of the major causes of the Calais Channel Crisis is the carnage caused by Daesh in Syria and now in Libya.
Add to this reports that Daesh has started to infiltrate refugee camps to manipulate and radicalise vulnerable Syrians.
Worse, the Daesh caliphate continues to draw foreign fighters from Libya, Indonesia, Chechnya and Australia, to name but a few.
All are upskilling their heinous craft, and history shows some will return home to attempt to carry out attacks.
Worryingly, after an initial reluctance, it now seems Daesh is starting to create greater unity between extremist groups.
Already we have seen groups declaring the extension of the caliphate in countries including Lebanon, Yemen and Algeria.
Striking at Daesh in Syria to degrade the caliphate will help blow away the delusion that lures foreign fighters and extremist groups.
The US has moved to strike at Daesh in Syria with the backing of Middle-East allies and Canada, but this focus by the US Administration on tactical strikes is not enough.
More than 15,000 Daesh fighters have been killed since the US-led air strikes commenced over a year ago.
The number of Daesh fighters, though, remains between 20,000 and 30,000, highlighting that it has not dented the foreign fighter flow.
It is time we asked the US administration to do more and, if we are to ask, we must be prepared to back our request with military action.
The place for Australia to begin must be at the UN. With the US leading, we need a concerted diplomatic front calling for a serious strategic response that includes the option of a more sophisticated ground campaign.
Options we must be prepared to discuss include greater utilisation of special forces on the ground and how to deal with the porous borders through which foreign fighters continue to flow.
This will not be easy.
Getting consensus at the UN will require navigating a three-dimensional game of chess, which includes the complex political agendas of the Middle East, the structure of the UN Security Council, and dealing with the vexed question of what to do with the Assad regime.
But it should be no excuse.
Over the course of four years, various Australian leaders have called for international action in Syria.
When Kevin Rudd in February 2012 first raised the option, 5000 Syrians had lost their lives. When Julia Gillard told the UN in September 2012 that “we must do everything we can to end the suffering of the Syrian people”, 37,000 Syrians had died.
The death toll has not stopped climbing and is now estimated by the UN at 220,000.
The international community must ask itself: what death toll will be high enough to justify action in Syria? How long will we leave Daesh to rape, murder and mutilate without a well coordinated strategic intervention?
The responsibility to protect civilians should not stop at a politically convenient border.
As a free and liberal democracy with a proud history of defending our national security interests, we need to do more than stand by our principles.
We have looked on for four years, hoping for a resolution to this conflict that has caused such human grief. Unless we start to see meaningful global leadership on Syria, our security interests and the globe’s will continue to diminish.