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Australia's role in the Syrian crisis - Letter to Ms Plibersek, deputy leader of the opposition and the Labor Party

Tanya Plibersek's article is Australia deserves a seat at the table in Syria negotiations, (15/12/15) | the Guardian

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.

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.

kind regards,

David Macilwain,

Sandy Creek, Victoria

*1 http://harpers.org/blog/2015/12/mountain-ambush/

I also recommend this article from Mike Whitney on today’s meeting between Kerry and Putin in Moscow, stating it as it is:
http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/12/15/putin-gives-kerry-a-chance-to-pull-back-from-the-brink/

Comments

Open letter calling for both sides of Syrian conflict to be put to the Australian people

Dear Tanya Plibersek,

I note that in the Guardian article "Tanya Plibersek: Australia deserves a seat at the table in Syria negotiations" (15/12/15) 1 you claimed that "[Syrian President] Bashar al-Assad has proved to be incapable or even unwilling to protect Syrian civilians."

Whilst this is nowhere near as serious as other accusations made by the mainstream newsmedia against the Syrian President, it is, nevertheless, a grave allegation that I don't believe can be substantiated. Certainly, please feel welcome to send me any evidence that you have in support of that allegation.

Given Australia's own record in the Middle East in recent years, I fail to see how other countries in the region could be expected to trust Australia to play a constructive role in any negotiations to end the war against Syria.

Australia and other members of the 'coalition of the willing' took part in two illegal wars against Iraq in 1991 and 2003. Australia also imposed sanctions against Iraq after 1990, even denying food to starving children and medicine to sick children. As a result, many hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. According to former United States' Attorney General, Ramsey Clarke on 17 Sep 2013, the death toll may have been as high as 3,300,000! 2

As a consequence of these wars and sanctions a total of 1,300,000 million Iraqis fled to neighbouring Syria to be cared for alongside 543,400 Palestinian refugees, according to Wikipedia. 3

I am not aware that Syria has ever been compensated for the huge trouble and expense caused to it by Australia and its allies.

Instead, based upon the pretext of the unsubstantiated allegations that the Syrian government had massacred its own citizens at Houla, the then Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr expelled the Syrian ambassador and imposed sanctions against Syria. As far as I am aware, Bob Carr never gave the Syrian ambassador the opportunity to put to him his government's account of the massacre.

As Professor Tim Anderson and many others have explained, there is far more evidence that the massacre was committed by terrorist 'rebels' against supporters of the Syrian government. 4 No doubt the additional difficulties caused by these sanctions have contributed to the awful death toll that has reached 250,000 so far.

The Syrian government has come out very well under media scrutiny

Are you aware that since March 2011 the Syrian President has been subject more often to more intense media scrutiny than any other world leader I know of? This includes the marathon one hour interview of 10 September 2013 by Charlie Rose of 60 Minutes. 5 Most Recently he was interviewed on 11 December by the Spanish News Agency EFE6

Other recent interviews of the Syrian President include: by the Italian TV Channel RAI UNO 7 and by the Chinese PHOENIX TV Channel. 8

For someone held by the mainstream media to be a corrupt mass-murderer, Bashar al-Assad came out of all of those interviews looking surprisingly good. In fact, it seems to me that the Syrian President demonstrated far more humanity compassion and intellect than I have seen in most leaders in the West and that includes Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

Would you be willing to undergo the same level of public scrutiny?

The Media Services of countries allied with the Syrian government, including Iran's PressTV and Russia's PressTV often allow people who are critical of or even opposed to their government to put their views to their audiences in interviews and panel discussions. Such shows include , on RT, "Worlds Apart" 9 compered by Oksana Boyko, "SophieCo" 10 compered by Sophie Shevardnadze, grand-daughter of the late Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze(1928-2014) and "CrossTalk" 11 hosted by Peter Lavelle and, on PressTV, "The Debate". 12 In contrast, Australian media, particularly the ABC, almost never interview the opposite side of these international questions. I am sure that Bashar al-Assad would be entirely willing to explain himself on our national television, if permitted and that Australians would benefit from this exposure.

If you still believe that you are right, then why not offer to put your views to those media outlets and show them and their audiences why they are wrong about Syria and its President?

Yours faithfully,

James Sinnamon ph 0412 319669

Appendix: response from Tanya Plibersek

The response I received from Tanya Plibersek, at 2:56PM, is:

James --

Thank you for your feedback. If your matter is urgent you may wish to contact my electorate office on 02 9379 0700 or at Tanya.Plibersek.MP [AT ] aph.gov.au.

Best wishes,

Tanya

Footnotes

1. Tanya Plibersek: Australia deserves a seat at the table in Syria negotiations

2. Fmr US Attorney General: US Sanctions Are Genocidal (17/9/13) | YouTube

3. Syria - Demographics | Wikipedia

4. The Houla Masaccre revisited: "Official truth" in the dirty war on Syria (16/12/15) | Global Research

5. The full transcript of the CBS interview is at President al-Assad's Interview with CBS News. Video and Transcript (10/9/13) Global Research – also republished here on candobetter.net.

6. President Al-Assad Interview: "The West Is Not Serious in Fighting Terrorists" (11/12/15)

7. President al-Assad to the Italian TV Channel RAI UNO: ISIS has no incubator in Syria...Terrorists are main obstacle in front of any political progress (19/11/15) | SANA

8. President al-Assad to Chinese PHOENIX TV Channel.. From the very first day, we were determined to fight terrorism (25/11/15)

9. Worlds Apart | RT

10. SophieCo | RT

11. CrossTalk | RT

12. The Debate | PressTV

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CONTROLLED BY THE STATE OF ISRAEL.”

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