Tanya Plibersek's article is Australia deserves a seat at the table in Syria negotiations, (15/12/15) | the Guardian
Dear Ms Plibersek,
This is a follow up email to a brief conversation I had with a staffer in your office, and is a response to the article you had published in the Guardian yesterday.
I have previously made representations to you on the question of Australia’s policy on Syria and that of the Federal Labor Party, in particular through a media release on behalf of Australians for Reconciliation in Syria (AMRIS), for which I am a spokesman.
I have also presented ‘my case’ – which is Syria’s case – to the Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, in correspondence over the last two years. My main concerns expressed in that correspondence have been regarding the false allegations over the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons, the improper recognition of external Opposition groups known as the ‘Syrian National Council’ as the ‘legitimate representatives of the Syrian people’, and Australia’s refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy and sovereign rights of the current Syrian government and its President Bashar al Assad, freely elected by a majority of the whole Syrian population in June 2014.
These concerns remain unchanged, as the position of the government and the Australian Labor Party remains the same, and lie at the heart of the current crisis.
There is however a reason why this problematic position must be challenged again, resulting from recent developments, and in particular Turkey’s provocation of shooting down the Russian bomber on November 24th, which Russia rightly regards as an act of war.
I would draw your attention here to a very detailed analysis by an aviation expert which proves to any sensible person that Turkey’s act was preplanned.(*1)
Following this strike, Russia responded in several ways, all of which must now be considered in relation to Australian involvement in the campaign ‘against Da’esh/IS’.
Firstly it deployed S400 missile systems in Syria, which enables Russia to shoot down any foreign aircraft which operate in Syrian airspace without authorisation from the Syrian government. Secondly Russia took immediate action over trade and relations with Turkey, including over the vital issue of gas supply contracts. And thirdly, President Putin very publicly revealed to an international audience in Paris the extent of the Turkish government’s involvement with the Islamic State, both in the export and marketing of Syrian and Iraqi oil with a tanker pipeline through Turkey to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan, and with the purchasing and supply of shipments of arms over the border into Syria.
These startling revelations from Moscow, which were backed up with multiple sources of evidence of the illegal Oil trade, were vigorously denied by President Erdogan, who also refused to apologise for the downing of the Russian plane and killing of Russian servicemen by Turkish insurgents in Syria. While this was unsurprising given that Russia’s allegations were directly against Erdogan’s son Bilal, as well as against the Turkish intelligence service MIT, which has been exposed assisting with arms shipments as well as chemical weapons into Syria, the failure of Western leaders or Western media to react and respond appropriately to Turkey’s blatant support for IS and other terrorist armies in Syria was shocking.
It is however also bemusing, to find that the position of Western governments, particularly those of the US, UK and Australia, has become so contradictory, and still essentially unchanged. While we call for a global campaign against Islamic State, and prepare to send more military resources into Syria and Iraq to destroy it, we are effectively allied with Turkey, who has been supporting Da’esh and other terrorist groups – Jabhat al Nusra and Ahrar al Sham, for the last four years in Turkey’s campaign against the Syrian state. Meanwhile Russia, which operates legitimately in Syria at the invitation of the government, and in coordination with the Syrian army, has made huge gains in pushing back both the Turkish/Saudi backed ‘Army of Conquest’, and in destroying the Oil refineries and tanker pipelines of Da’esh.
The effectiveness of Russia’s bombing and cruise missile strikes on the Islamic State’s dirty trade not only raised the ire of its benefactor – Erdogan’s family business – but raises questions about the US ‘campaign against IS’ of which we are nominally a part.
There has however been another significant development, which raises particular questions about Australia’s current military deployment in Iraq. Apparently in cooperation with the Iraqi Kurdistan ‘regional government’, and its leader Barzani, Turkey moved 1200 troops and tanks and other assets into Mosul. This drew an immediate demand from the Baghdad government’s Haidar al Abadi that Turkey withdraw its forces, or face military action. Shiite militias who are operating in coordination with the Iraqi Army out of Baghdad, were particularly vocal in their protests against Turkey, as well as against the US. The Iraqi government was vigorously supported with mass public protests in the south of the country, and calls for direct action against Turkey’s invasion. Erdogan however not only refuses to withdraw his troops, which he claims are there to ‘train peshmerga forces to fight IS’, but has threatened to cut Iraq’s water supply through the Euphrates and Tigris rivers unless Iraq changes its position on support for Syria and Russia.
The Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has repeatedly made clear that our commitment in Iraq and in Syria is strictly ‘in defence of Iraq’ but is also operating with the consent and at the behest of the Baghdad government. As the development outlined above now effectively puts Australia at odds with the ‘US coalition against Da’esh’ there is an urgent need for a clarification of Australia’s position, both on Turkey and on the Russian campaign supporting the Syrian army against ALL the terrorist groups fighting the Syrian government.
We must ask whether the Turnbull government acknowledges Turkey’s support for the Islamic State, and what action it intends to take against the Erdogan regime’s aggressive and destabilising behaviour. We must also ask whether the Australian airforce will continue to conduct bombing runs in coordination with the US coalition. Not only have Turkish actions put us in conflict with that coalition, operating out of Incirlik, but there is another danger. Russia has stated that there no further threats to Russian servicemen and assets will be tolerated, from unauthorised foreign parties.
Even if Australia limits its activities to strikes on Islamic State targets in Eastern Syria, this may bring us into the line of legitimate Russian fire. Other unidentified coalition partners last week struck a Syrian army base near Deir al Zour, in an act which enabled IS forces to overrun a long-protected village. As with Turkey’s illegal incursions, this attack on the SAA , which killed three men and injured a dozen, drew an immediate protest to the UN, but no action has been taken to identify the country or countries responsible. Neither has there been any explanation of why a member of the US coalition launched a strike on the SAA base which facilitated the operations of the IS terrorist group in the area where its Oil assets are located.
I trust that you will consider the case that I have made, and in the light of it perhaps reconsider the apparent support of the Labor party for the US led campaign, which quite evidently aims to replace Syria’s legitimately elected government with some group of Sunni officials approved by the very countries supporting the terrorist groups in Syria – Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar.
I also urge you to give this matter urgent attention, despite the imminent Christmas break.
I have copied Julie Bishop into this letter, and would welcome a further response from her.
Sandy Creek, Victoria
I also recommend this article from Mike Whitney on today’s meeting between Kerry and Putin in Moscow, stating it as it is: