Monday, 19 October 2015 02:32
- In Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, I argued that Foreign Minister Bishop had a short sighted view on Russian, Iranian and Syrian cooperation, and the dangers they posed. Read more.
THE HON MICHAEL DANBY MP
MEMBER FOR MELBOURNE PORTS
SHADOW PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
Motion text: Calls on the Foreign Minister to support a parliamentary debate during the current sitting on the Australian Government’s strategy in response to the crisis in Syria and Iraq
When Russia entered the Syrian civil war, Australia’s Foreign Minister said,
“Russia's involvement [in negotiations with Iran over their nuclear program] has been ... very positive by all of those negotiating that agreement.
“If we use that as an example of Russia's preparedness to be part of a solution rather than part of the problem, then we can have some optimism that Russia's involvement [in Syria] is positive.”
As the pattern of Russian bombing of non-Daesh targets is established, these comments look even more silly.
A screengrab of footage claiming to show the aftermath of air strikes by a Russian plane in Tabliseh, Syria. Russia has attacked both Daesh, but mainly non-Daesh targets in Syria
The Foreign Minister has mimicked Russia and Iran’s false dichotomy, that the West has to choose between Daesh or Assad. To argue in favour of a dictator who has murdered 200,000 of his own people is unethical and will never work.
Russia’s intervention on the side of Iran and Hezbollah cements in place Iran's Shiite crescent from Lebanon, through Syria and Iraq, to Iran. How is this in the Australian national interest? It is just one of the reasons why the Australian Government must debate sudden pro-Iranian shift in Parliament.
In Arabic and Russian, “The time of masculinity and men.” Bashar al-Assad (l) and Vladimir Putin (r); the legend says
According to news reports, Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Syria are about to embark on a massive ground offensive against non-Daesh enemies of Syria. Qassem Soleimani, who commands of the al-Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards is in Syria. Normally, in the face of this ground offensive, the Australian Government would have said something, but in this case, they didn’t.
Iran test-fired a ballistic missile on 11 October, in defiance of a UN ban
Since the one-side nuclear deal with Iran, the Foreign Minister has re-imagined Iran as the region’s saviour. This is idiotic and must be debated in this Parliament.
Since 1979, Iran has sponsored terrorism in almost every Arab country, as well as Israel, South America, Europe and Asia.
Instead of shunning Iran, our foreign minister says trade with us! Take our unwanted refugees! Open consulates here! Let’s share intelligence!
In April, when the Foreign Minister became the first Western foreign minister to visit Iran in many years.
But in the last fortnight, Iraq, Iran, Russia and Syria have announced an intelligence sharing centre, based in Baghdad. US Deputy Secretary of Defence Robert Work said, “We were caught by surprise that Iraq entered into this agreement with Syria and Iran and Russia. Obviously, we are not going to share intelligence with either Syria or Russia or Iran.” Normally, the Australian Government would have said something, but again, they didn’t.
Aftermath of a Russian bombing. Russia has attacked both Daesh and non-Daesh targets in Syria
The Foreign Minister must also explain the legalities to the House. Under autonomous sanctions no one in Australia is allowed to provide either Iran or Syria with any, and I quote from the law, “technical advice, assistance or training … if it assists with, or is provided in relation to … a military activity…” And, of course, Hezbollah, which was founded, and is funded, armed and trained by Iran, is proscribed by the Australian Parliament.
And when concerned foreign ministers gathered in Paris back in June, to discuss how to handle Daesh, it was our foreign minister who argued that Iran should be involved in the US-led coalition. It was a suggestion quickly dismissed by all the other Western Defence Ministers. She later revealed she would ‘consult’ with Iran before striking Daesh in Syria.
Last week, an emboldened Iran test fired ballistic missiles – in flagrant violation of UN Sanctions – the US described it as a “complete violation” and condemned it utterly. Normally, Australia would have said something. Again, we were silent.
Is this why she has narrowcast to our farmers on ABC Rural radio the benefits of removing sanctions against Iran?
When in August, the Iranian Parliament Speaker’s Adviser for International Affairs Hossein Sheikholeslam said, “Our positions against the usurper Zionist regime have not changed at all; Israel should be annihilated and this is our ultimate slogan,” Australia should have repudiated the Iranians. We were shamefully silent.
Nothing that the foreign minister says is worth the dangers to Australian citizens of opening Iranian consulates in Sydney or Melbourne.
Iran is so emboldened by Western weakness that it is now boasting of its previously secret military sites
The Foreign Minister should google ‘Hezbollah, Iran and Argentina’. Or Thailand. Or Lebanon. Or Singapore. Or Bulgaria. Or Egypt. Or Saudi Arabia. In all these cases, Hezbollah carried out, or attempted to carry out, terrorist attacks using the diplomatic cover provided by Iranian embassies and consulates to advance their shared poisonous ideology. Interpol has issued arrest warrants for senior Iranian officials.
It is inimical to our national security to allow Iran to establish a network along those lines in Australia. We have had no reasonable assurance that Iran is moving in a positive direction when it comes to supporting international terrorism.
The Government has become an unwitting, incompetent facilitator, aiding and abetting the Iranian agenda. The Foreign Minister has been played for a fool and is clearly out of her depth.
Legal ramifications of Australian intelligence
The international legal implications of this situation are complex.
Australia’s autonomous sanctions
Should Australian intelligence, shared with Iran, be provided to the Syrian Government, whether by the Iranian forces operating in Syria or by the various Iranian-backed Iraqi Shia militias helping the Assad regime (particularly the Badr Organisation and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq), then this might complicate Australia’s autonomous sanctions regime. That regime includes the following:
“4. Australian law prohibits the provision to Syria, or to a person for use in Syria, of:
- technical advice, assistance or training
if it assists with, or is provided in relation to:
- a military activity
…without a sanctions permit.”
Foreign Minister Bishop has implied that the intelligence sharing arrangement relates to Australians fighting with ISIS in Iraq, rather than any broader intelligence sharing regarding military operations, the distribution of forces, etc, in Syria. However, if Australian intelligence aids groups that subsequently fight in Syria, this might be in breach of Australian legislation.
And this same autonomous sanction provision continues to also apply to Iran, so if the Australian Government was providing ‘technical advice [or] assistance’ which ‘assists with’ ‘a military activity’ for the Iranians, the same sanction would theoretically come into effect.
Aid to proscribed terrorist organisations
The other possible ramification is if Australian intelligence, supplied to Iran, is then supplied to its client, Lebanese Hezbollah. Hezbollah’s External Security Organisation is a proscribed terrorist organisation in Australia, meaning that it is an offence to ‘provide support’ to it. Again, this assumes the intelligence sharing relationship with Iran goes beyond ‘simply’ exchanging information about Australians fighting with ISIS, and that Iran would provide that intelligence to Hezbollah.
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