Media Release: Legality of Bombing Syria Does Matter, Mr Abbott.

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August 24, 2015


The Campaign for an Iraq War Inquiry (CIWI) has expressed grave concerns at PM Abbott’s apparent indifference as to whether bombing Syria is legal or not.

The Prime Minister has been quoted as saying, “While there is a little difference between the legalities of air strikes on either side of the border, there’s no difference in the morality.” However the difference between the legalities is both large and important. The Government claims to be operating in Iraq on the basis of an invitation from the Iraqi Government – although the Government has never divulged the particulars of this request and the Iraqi Government has declined to negotiate the Status of Forces Agreement that one would expect to see in such circumstances.

CIWI President, former Defence Department head Paul Barratt, said, “Regardless of the legal basis for our operations in and over Iraq, there is no lawful basis for Australia to participate in air operations over Syria – indeed our facilitation of coalition air strikes there is highly questionable. As a nation which claims to uphold the rule of law, Australia should regard the difference between the legal situations in Iraq and Syria as fundamental. If we abandon the need for legality before we go to war, then we’re back in the dark ages.”

Also, as Chief of Joint Operations Vice Admiral David Johnson has observed recently, Syria is a much more difficult environment in which to operate, with many more groups operating and Daesh operations much more difficult to define, and Australian operations would not be a “a game changer” in terms of the overall effort.

Before there is any further commitment of Australian resources or any extension of our role in the Middle East, the Prime Minister should give an accounting to the Parliament of:

  • what the operation has cost financially,
  • what the civilian toll has been,
  • what has been achieved,
  • what is the military strategy for defeating Daesh, and
  • by when this is likely to be accomplished.

When the Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesperson suggested that the air force should be dropping food parcels on Syria, not bombs, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Ms Bishop responded by saying that we could not be sure that they would not drop onto IS/ISIL strongholds. If we can’t be sure of food parcels dropping where intended, how can we be sure about our bombs?


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