Australian government policy – Iraq

Australian government policy – Iraq


The Australian governments policy towards Iraq has evolved considerably since the 2003 invasion. Policy has been shaped by a number of factors ranging from the security situation within Iraq, the Australian relationship with the United States, and domestic political considerations. An important element of Australia’s Iraq policy since 2003 has been the continued deployment of Australian Defence Force and government personnel within Iraq and the Middle East area of operations. The Howard government refused to announce any form of withdrawal, and the Rudd governments policy suggests a partial, rather than full, withdrawal of ADF personnel.

For information concerning the rationale for Australian government policy towards Iraq, the relationship between the Australian government and media concerning Iraq, and the activities of the “Iraq Task Force”  see:


Government sources


Iraq, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Canberra



Questions without notice, Iraq,  Robert McClelland to John Howard. September 2007

Robert McClelland asked:

“When will the Prime Minister advise the Australian people of his plans for the withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq?”

Prime Minister John Howard responded:

“Our position is this: we are not going to pull our forces out of Iraq while they continue to make a contribution to enabling the Iraqi people to look after themselves. We think it is good for the Iraqis that they are doing humanitarian work; we think it is good for the Iraqis that they are doing training; we think it is good for the Iraqis that they are providing security overwatch.  We also think it is the right and decent thing for an ally to do, when clearly the United States is under pressure in Iraq, not to behave in a way that looks as though one of your closest allies is withdrawing some of its support. That is what the Labor Party is proposing. Cut out all the propaganda and all the PR, and what you are really proposing is something that will be represented to the world as a stepping back from the United States by one of her closest allies—namely, Australia. Any government I lead will not be part of that.”



Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade (budget estimates), Official Committee Hansard, Commonwealth of Australia Senate, 30 May 2007. (pp. 19-20)

“Senator CHRIS EVANS—Sorry to interrupt, but the whole concept of mentoring is that eventually you retire and leave.

Air Chief Marshal Houston—Absolutely.

Senator CHRIS EVANS—I guess I am trying to get a sense of ‘when’. We keep getting reassured that this is all going well. Surely the benchmark for that is the fact that we can actually get out and leave them to it. I guess I am asking a direct question about Al Muthanna: when is it that we can get out of there? I am not asking you a broader political question about whether that means we deploy somewhere else, but in terms of the work in Al Muthanna when do we say we have done our job and we give effect to the sentiment that you have been expressing here for some time?

Air Chief Marshal Houston—When there is no further work to be done and at the moment there is plenty of work to be done. It is as simple as that. Our people, as you have seen, are doing a magnificent job. Eventually, yes, there will come a time when we will probably no longer be required, but we have not reached that point yet.

Senator CHRIS EVANS—What I am asking is: when is that time going to be? What is your assessment? We have committed troops to this io. I do not want to get caught up in public service speak about benchmarking but what are your performance outcomes and when do we know or how do we know when the job is done and what is your assessment about when the job will be done?

Air Chief Marshal Houston—I have not given that assessment yet to government and I think it would be most inappropriate if I gave it to you first. We assess the situation, we review it on a six monthly basis and essentially we provide advice to government. It will be government who decide when the time has come. All I can say is that there is still work to be done and our troops are enjoying doing it.

Senator CHRIS EVANS—I am not disputing your need to advise the government, but I think the Australian public and those approving the funding have a right to know at some stage as well. I suspect the message from you is that it is still some time off.

Air Chief Marshal Houston—For example, we have just increased the number of trainers. We have done that because there is still a need to train more security people to take care of this very challenging security environment in Iraq. At the end of the day, once they are in a position to secure the whole nation of Iraq, that is probably when we will be able to depart. But there is still a lot of work to be done. Bear in mind that this security force was raised from scratch, from a standing start, three years ago. It is an enormous task and one that requires assistance from people like us for a long time to come. I would imagine that, like we do here in our own region, there will be a need for training and cooperation long into the future. That is the nature of these things. Raising a security force several hundred thousand strong is not achieved overnight. There is an awful lot of work that still has to be done. They have the frontline forces, but there is a need for a lot of backup, logistics, logistics training, the development of logistics doctrine, and support in a large number of other areas.”




Welcome breakthrough in Iraq, Prime Minister John Howard: Media Release, 23 April 2006.

“I welcome the news that Jawad al-Maliki has been invited by the re-elected President of Iraq, Jalal Talabani, to form a government…

Australia remains strongly committed to a secure and democratic Iraq. Our nation will continue to assist in the security of that country until that task can be effectively discharged by the Iraqis themselves.”



Address to Australian Troops, Camp Smitty Al Muthanna province, Prime Minister John Howard: Speech, 25 July 2005.

“I saw the Iraqi Prime Minister in Baghdad earlier today and told him that Australia would continue to support the drive by Iraq towards establishing a secure and democratic state and the progress that’s been made in this part of Iraq, which as you know is more stable than many other parts of the country, is a great tribute to you, it’s a tribute to the coalition partners that you are working with, and it is important that part of your mission is to provide a secure environment for our Japanese friends and I know that is great appreciated by the Japanese Government and the Japanese people.”

Interview with Ryuichiro Nakamura, NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation, Prime Minister John Howard: Speech, 25 February 2005.

NAKAMURA: Well Mr Koizumi highly values your decision. You have said it could be an unpopular decision. Why did you decide to send your troops to Iraq for the Japanese contingent?

PRIME MINISTER: For a number of reasons. We believe the great turn out in the successful Iraqi election on the 30th of January has given the country a renewed hope of a democratic future and we want to contribute to that. We also pay a very high regard to the relationship with Japan, providing a secure environment for the Japanese force to operate is a very important consideration. Japan is a close friend and a wonderful regional partner and the relationship between Japan and Australia is very important to my Government and the Australian people. And the final reason is training. Everybody is now saying that a greater emphasise on training is important because if we are ever to see the withdrawal of foreign forces from Iraq that can only happen if the Iraqis are properly trained to provide for their own security.

NAKAMURA: Do you set any cut-off point for the deployment in southern Iraq?

PRIME MINISTER: The initial deployment is for a period of 12 months and there will be two six-monthly rotations. I can’t guarantee that it won’t be longer, but the initial deployment is for a period of 12 months.”



 Iraq – the path ahead, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, June 2004

“Australia has been at the forefront of Coalition efforts in Iraq. Our contribution is focused in several priority areas in which Australia has particular expertise and can add value, while allowing us to meet priority commitments in the Asia-Pacific region…

Australia will continue to support Iraq’s transition to democracy. We will assist UN and Iraqi preparations for elections by January 2005, including through a $6 million contribution to the UN trust fund for this purpose. We are contributing to human rights investigations in preparation for trials to be undertaken by the Iraqi Special Tribunal. And we are helping to build Iraq’s relations with the international community through training of Iraqi diplomats and trade officials in Australia.”



100 Days On – A Brighter Future for Iraq, Minister for Foreign Affairs Aleaxander Downer: Media Release FA100, 9 August 2003.

“One hundred days after the end of major combat operations in Iraq, visible progress has been made towards a brighter future for the Iraqi people.

Real improvements have been made by the US-led Coalition, working closely with the Iraqi people and the United Nations. Iraqis can be confident there will be no return to Saddam’s despicable regime…

Australia made an early commitment of $100 million to Iraq’s humanitarian needs and post-conflict reconstruction – the fifth-largest bilateral donor contribution.

Our rehabilitation effort is being spearheaded by a team of Australian agricultural advisers, led by Trevor Flugge. Other Australian experts are advising on water, sanitation, economic and legal issues. Australian Defence Force personnel are helping in critical areas such as air traffic control at Baghdad airport.

Most of Iraq has returned to order. The despicable terrorist bombing in Baghdad on 7 August, and other security incidents, need to be seen in perspective. Instability is now largely confined to Saddam’s former power-base – the arc to the north and west of Baghdad. Attacks against Coalition forces and sabotage of vital infrastructure are the desperate acts of a minority that seeks to deny Iraqis a free and prosperous future. But they will not prevail against the Coalition’s firm resolve.

Almost 30,000 Iraqi police are conducting joint patrols with Coalition forces and a new Iraqi Army is being formed. Some thirty countries have confirmed participation in stabilisation operations.

Australian experts are participating in the Iraq Survey Group investigating Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction programs. As more Iraqi weapons scientists and regime officials come forward with information, and as more sites are investigated, this complex jigsaw is being pieced together. We can be confident that with the departure of Saddam’s regime, the UN Security Council’s long-standing requirement that Iraq abandon its WMD ambitions and account for its programs will be finally satisfied.

For the first time in years, Iraqis have hope for their future. Australians can take pride in our country’s role in bringing new opportunity and freedom to the people of Iraq.”


Transcript of the Prime Minister the Hon John Howard MP ministerial statement to Parliament on Iraq, Prime Minister John Howard: Speeches, 14 May 2003.

“I am pleased to report that the coalition’s major combat operations in Iraq have been successfully concluded.

Australian military forces participated with just cause, in an action properly based in international law, which resulted in the liberation of an oppressed people.

Australia’s defence forces acquitted themselves with great distinction and professionalism. They rightly won the admiration not only of the Australian people but also our allies.

I know that all Australians will join me in expressing our immense gratitude that no Australian casualties have so far been sustained.

I have been told by many senior members of the Australian Defence Force that the absence of casualties is due, in no small measure, to the predeployment of our forces some weeks before the military operation commenced.

This pre-positioning, added weight to the attempt to pressure Saddam Hussein into compliance and, more importantly, it gave our people the opportunity to prepare and acclimatise – enhancing their performance and their security in the event of conflict.

Not only was the victory achieved quickly but the doomsday predictions were not realised: the oil wells were not set on fire; there were not millions of refugees; the dams on the Tigris and the Euphrates were not breached to bring on catastrophic flooding; there was no long drawn-out bloody siege for Baghdad. For all this we are extremely grateful.

The decisive victory of the American-led coalition reflects great credit on the strength and determination of President Bush’s leadership. It also has immense implications, not least the momentum it has already begun to generate towards achieving a Middle East peace settlement.

President Bush and his administration are determined to all that they can to advance the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.

The President made this very clear to me during our recent discussions in the United States.

Now that the major combat phase is over and efforts in Iraq rightly turn to humanitarian assistance, we have begun to bring home our defence personnel.

This month we will be welcoming home the HMAS ANZAC AND DARWIN, the airmen and women and support crews deployed with the F/A-18 Hornet aircraft, the majority of the Special Air Service units, the Commando and Incident Response Regiment elements, the CH 47 Helicopter Detachment, and the Navy clearance diver team.

Some military forces are still required to restore peace and security and assist in the rehabilitation of the Iraqi nation.

Our military deployment will be limited given current commitments in our own region. Many other nations have indicated a willingness to provide peacekeeping assistance in Iraq. The government has made clear all along that Australia would not be in a position to provide peacekeeping forces in Iraq. Our coalition partners clearly understood and accepted our position.

However, the following ADF capabilities will either remain or be deployed to Iraq: an Australian National Headquarters element; the HMAS SYDNEY; the HMAS KANIMBLA and a naval task group command element; an Army commando element for a brief period; two P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft and support; two C130 Hercules transport aircraft and support; an air traffic control element to support air operations at Baghdad International Airport; a security group for the new Australian Representational Mission in Baghdad; as well as civilian and military experts working on locating and eliminating WMD in Iraq.

Our commitment for this phase of the operation is currently in the order of 1,200 personnel. For Australia, and the families of those involved, this remains a significant deployment.

It is our intention to ensure that the period of coalition control is kept to a minimum and that the responsibility for governing Iraq is taken up by an Interim Iraqi Authority as soon as practicable. This will be the first step on the pathway to representative government…

Security is the most important immediate priority. The people of Iraq cannot consider their future until their day-to-day security is assured. They must be able to go to work, to go to school, to meet, to discuss issues freely.

The coalition must also work to provide basic humanitarian support for the Iraqis. Without secure food supplies, clean drinking water, functioning sewage systems, reliable electricity, transport and fuel there will be little opportunity for the Iraqi people to turn their attention to their political infrastructure.

It is critical that the world not believe that the current dilapidated state of Iraq’s infrastructure is entirely due to military conflict. Even before the conflict started, Iraq’s infrastructure was severely degraded. The telecommunications network required urgent attention. Oil and gas infrastructure had deteriorated greatly. Electricity generation was less than half its nominal capacity and, partly because of the poor state of the distribution system, power cuts were common. Water supplies were increasingly vulnerable to contamination by raw sewage, and access to safe drinking water was a major concern.

These deficiencies stem from long-standing neglect. It is salutary to consider that more Iraqi lives have been lost to dirty drinking water than to the recent conflict.

Australia takes its rehabilitation responsibilities very seriously. Our contribution – as in the conflict phase – will focus our limited resources in niche areas where we have expertise and where a concentrated effort can make a difference. We have committed some $100 million in aid. We have provided highly skilled personnel to contribute to key humanitarian planning and reconstruction efforts.

We are keen to play a strong role in rehabilitating Iraqi agriculture, an area where our experience of dry-land farming, salination and irrigation may prove useful to the Iraqi people. Another focus of our humanitarian efforts will be in the water and sanitation sector.

In addition to meeting these obligations, the coalition is working hard to rid Iraq of all weapons of mass destruction. The hunt for these weapons will not be easy. We know that in order to protect them from inspectors, the Iraqi regime broke them up and hid them in their disaggregated condition in different parts of the country.

We are starting to uncover the evidence. We have found what appear to be mobile biological weapons production facilities, just like those described by Secretary of State Powell to the Security Council in February.

It is going to take considerable time and resources to complete the investigation and destruction of the regime’s weapons of mass destruction. But at least we will no longer obstructed by a hostile regime.

Australia has joined the United States and the United Kingdom as partners in the coalition transitional authority in Iraq. The coalition’s aim is to create the circumstances in which the Iraqis will have the opportunity to establish a representative government of their choosing. We are not in the business of imposing a particular model of democracy on the Iraqi people.

The transitional phase will be enormously challenging. Restoring political stability and promoting democracy in Iraq are daunting tasks. Iraq has no history of representative democracy and is marked by significant religious and ethnic divides. It will also take time and sustained effort to overcome the corrosive effects of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship.

But Iraq is a relatively modern and sophisticated country with good economic prospects. Not just because of its oil resources but because its people are strong well skilled and have a strong entrepreneurial ethos.

While it is not for the coalition to dictate the form of Iraq’s new government, we will seek to establish a representative process so that Iraqis can, for the first time, choose their leaders via a process that respects democratic principles and respects Iraq’s religious and ethnic mix. As a committed supporter of the Australian democratic system it should be no surprise that I have speculated that a federal model may be appropriate. But again that is up to the Iraqi people to determine the best way to preserve Iraq’s territorial integrity and enhance the stability of immediate region.

The government considers that the United Nations could play a significant, practical, role in support of the transitional processes.”


Transcript of the Prime Minister the Hon John Howard MP address to the nation, Prime Minister John Howard: Speeches, 20 March 2003.

“The Government has decided to commit Australian forces to action to disarm Iraq because we believe it is right, it is lawful and it’s in Australia’s national interest.

We are determined to join other countries to deprive Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction, its chemical and biological weapons, which even in minute quantities are capable of causing death and destruction on a mammoth scale.

Iraq has been an aggressor in the past against its neighbours and even its own people. If Iraq is allowed to keep these weapons not only might she use them again but moreover other rogue countries will copy Iraq knowing that the world will do nothing to stop them.

And the more countries that have these weapons – countries run by despotic regimes – the greater becomes the likelihood that these weapons will fall into the hands of terrorists. If that happens can anyone doubt that the terrorists will use them whatever the cost might be?

The attacks on the 11th of September and in Bali showed that international terrorists have no regard for human life no matter what the nationality of their victims may be.

Iraq has long supported international terrorism. Saddam Hussein pays $25,000 to each family of Palestinian suicide bombers who wreak such murderous havoc in Israel. He has sheltered and sponsored many terrorist groups.

International terrorism knows no borders. We have learnt that to our cost. Australia and Australians anywhere in the world are as much targets as any other western country and its people.

Therefore the possession of chemical, biological, or even worse still, nuclear weapons by a terrorist network would be a direct undeniable and lethal threat to Australia and its people.

That is the reason above all others why I passionately believe that action must be taken to disarm Iraq. Not only will it take dangerous weapons from that country but it will send a clear signal to other rogue states and terrorists groups like Al Qaeda which clearly want such weapons that the world is prepared to take a stand.

There’s also another reason and that is our close security alliance with the United States. The Americans have helped us in the past and the United States is very important to Australia’s long-term security.

It is critical that we maintain the involvement of the United States in our own region where at present there are real concerns about the dangerous behaviour of North Korea.

The relationship between our two countries will grow more rather than less important as the years go by.

A key element of our close friendship with the United States and indeed with the British is our full and intimate sharing of intelligence material

In the difficult fight against the new menace of international terrorism there is nothing more crucial than timely and accurate intelligence. This is a priceless component of our relationship with our two very close allies…

We believe that so far from our action in Iraq increasing the terrorist threat it will, by stopping the spread of chemical and biological weapons, make it less likely that a devastating terrorist attack will be carried out against Australia.

I want to assure all of you that the action we are taking is fully legal under international law. Back in the early 1990s resolutions were passed by the Security Council authorising military action against Iraq.

That action was only suspended on condition that Iraq gave up its weapons of mass destruction. Clearly we all know this has not happened. As a result the authority to take military action under those earlier resolutions has revived.

America’s critics both here and abroad have been both opportunistic and inconsistent. They know and admit that weapons inspectors only returned to Iraq because of the pressure of the American military build-up. Yet they have persistently criticised American policy.

Apparently they believe that a quarter of a million American, British and indeed Australian troops should stay in the desert doing nothing indefinitely. We all know that if the troops had been withdrawn Iraq would have immediately stopped its minimal co-operation with the inspectors.”


Transcript of the Prime Minister the Hon John Howard MP address to the House of Representatives, Parliament House, Canberra, Prime Minister John Howard: Speeches, 18 March 2003.

“This morning I announced that Australia had joined a coalition, led by the United States, which intends to disarm Iraq of its prohibited weapons of mass destruction.

The government has now authorised our defence forces, which were predeployed to the gulf to acclimatise and contribute to the campaign to persuade Saddam Hussein into compliance, to take part in coalition operations. There is no more serious decision for any government than to commit its forces to military conflict abroad. Under our system, this decision lies with the executive of government, the cabinet. Nevertheless, it is appropriate that the parliament, at the first opportunity, have the chance to debate this motion. It is essential that the reason for that decision be made plain to the representatives of the people and that they have a full opportunity to debate them and to have their views recorded.

In 1991, the world judged that the Iraqi regime was a dangerous aggressor. In the interests of world peace and regional security, the community of nations required Iraq to surrender its offensive arsenal, its chemical and biological weapons, and abandon its nuclear weapons program. Iraq agreed to comply. We have waited 12 years for it to give action to that commitment. On 8 November 2002, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1441—the 17th Security Council resolution on Iraq regarding the threat it poses to international peace and security. This resolution, which was adopted unanimously, gave Iraq a final opportunity to demonstrate immediate compliance with its disarmament obligations.

Over the last four months, we have seen no evidence to suggest that Saddam Hussein is willing to comply with resolution 1441. He has offered up minor concessions but he has not demonstrated that he is willing to declare or destroy Iraq’s prohibited weapons programs. The government believes very strongly that Iraq’s continued defiance of the community of nations presents a challenge which must be addressed.

It is inherently dangerous to allow a country such as Iraq to retain weapons of mass destruction, particularly in the light of its past aggressive behaviour. If the world community fails to disarm Iraq, we fear that other rogue states will be encouraged to believe that they too can have these most deadly of weapons and that the world will do nothing to stop them.

As the possession of weapons of mass destruction spreads, so the danger of such weapons coming into the hands of terrorist groups will multiply. That is the ultimate nightmare which the world must take decisive and effective steps to prevent. Possession of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons by terrorists would constitute a direct, undeniable and lethal threat to Australia and its people. The government’s principal objective is the disarmament of Iraq; however, should military action be required to achieve this, it is axiomatic that such action will result in the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

Early this morning, President Bush telephoned me and formally requested Australia’s support and participation in a coalition of nations who are prepared to enforce the Security Council’s resolutions by all necessary means. This request was subsequently considered and agreed to by cabinet.

Around midday today, Australian Eastern Standard Time, President Bush delivered an ultimatum to the Iraqi leadership: Saddam Hussein and his sons must leave Iraq within 48 hours or face military conflict. Nobody wants a military conflict. The world has tried other means for years but, so far, to no avail. We cannot walk away from the threat that Iraq’s continued possession of weapons of mass destruction constitutes to its region and to the wider world

In the final analysis, the absolute conviction of the government is that disarming Iraq is necessary for the long-term security of the world and is therefore manifestly in the national interest of Australia. The events of the last four months, Iraq’s history, and its 12 years of defiance have convinced the government that the only way to deal with this challenge is by force. Sadly, the government is not surprised that it should have come to this. Force has been the only language that Saddam Hussein’s regime has ever understood…

This decision has been taken by the government in the belief that it is in the long-term interests of this country. It has been taken against a background of a world environment changed forever by the events of 11 September. The world now faces new and previously unknown menaces. Old notions of aggression and responses to aggression do not necessarily fit our new circumstances. Yet one thing remains constant—the responsibility of governments to protect its citizens against possible future attacks, wherever they may come from. It is in that spirit, against that background and in that context that the government has taken the decision it has, and I commend the motion to the House.”


Commentary and analysis


Australia: Iraq War, Peter Nicholson political cartoons, The Australian.



Rudd to withdraw troops from Iraq, Al Jazeera, 30 November 2007.

“Australia’s prime minister-elect has said that his country’s 550 combat troops in Iraq will be withdrawn by the middle of next year.

“The combat force in Iraq, we would have home by around about the middle of next year,” Kevin Rudd told a Melbourne radio station on Friday…

Howard was US President George Bush’s last major partner in the “coalition of the willing” that once included former prime ministers Tony Blair of Britain; Jose Maria Aznar of Spain; Silvio Berlusconi of Italy; and former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski.”


Tanter on Rudd and Australian Security Policy,  Informed Comment, 26 November 2007.


Bush loses a friend in Australia, Raymond Bonner, International Herald Tribune, 25 November 2007.


“In Iraq, Rudd has said that his Labor Party would withdraw Australia’s 550 combat troops. That will still leave more than 300 Australian support troops in Iraq, so the move may be seen as largely symbolic.”


Australian army to debate switch in Iraq role, Peter Smith, Financial Times, 22 October 2007.

“Australian military commanders will start discussions on Tuesday about switching the role of the country’s troops in Iraq from combat to training.
John Howard, prime minister, announced the planned change in a televised debate with the Labor opposition leader Kevin Rudd ahead of the November 24 election.
The discussions with the US and Iraqi authorities were a sign of progress, Mr Howard said. “We’ve moved from providing security, and remember these troops also do humanitarian [work] and they’re going to evolve to a greater training role.”


Labor Iraq troop policy is a big con, Dennis Shanahan, The Australian, 21 September 2007

Mr Rudd says Labor will withdraw the 550 “combat” troops from Australia’s 1575-strong force in and around Iraq, leaving more than 1000 personnel. But Labor wants to replace the “combat” troops with hundreds of “training” troops outside Iraq but stationed in the Middle East.

Labor’s policy is deceptive and contradictory because it is attempting to say different things to different audiences.

The way the policy is enunciated throws a deliberate veil of confusion over principle as well as operational implementation.

The Coalition attempts to use these public contradictions to Labor’s detriment by suggesting the ALP policy will put Australian soldiers in greater jeopardy.

Labor’s own duplicitous wording aimed at its anti-war and anti-American constituency gives such claims some credence.

In Rudd’s words, the Labor policy he put to the US President was “a negotiated, staged withdrawal of Australia’s combat forces from Iraq”. On the question of the timing of that withdrawal, the Labor leader said after meeting George W.Bush:

“We have already indicated the timetable that we would adhere to, which is that if we are elected to form the next government of Australia, we would see through this current rotation of our combat forces, we would then, of course, see to its replacement by a further rotation, taking us through to about the middle of next year.

“But we would then see those combat forces come out.” Labor’s foreign affairs spokesman, Robert McClelland, uses a similar formula, although at times he confuses the issue of when the policy would begin and changes the definition of troops…

So, more than 1000 defence force personnel will continue doing exactly what they are doing now in and around Iraq under a Labor government. What’s more, hundreds of other troops are likely to replace those “combat” troops to train Iraqi police, border security and military personnel. They will serve in the Middle East, helping the Iraqi military, but will be stationed outside Iraq.

Labor will be guided in government on exactly where the training would take place, possibly Jordan, with the size of that training force depending on Iraqi needs and military advice. Under Labor there will be a conversion of the combat troops in the south into other training troops outside the country after consultations with the US, Britain and the Iraqis.”


Govt keeps changing tune on Iraq: Labor, Sydney Morning Herald, 8 July 2007.

The federal government keeps changing the script on why Australian troops are in Iraq, Labor says. Treasurer Peter Costello said soldiers were stationed in the war-torn country to protect democracy and not to keep fuel prices down. Mr Costello said comments by Defence Minister Brendan Nelson last week suggesting energy security was a factor had been misinterpreted.

“The government continues to change its script on the reasons our troops are in Iraq every day,” federal Labor leader Kevin Rudd said in Sydney. He said Mr Costello had attempted a back flip on the issue and called on Prime Minister John Howard to provide a clear-cut answer to why Australian troops were in Iraq four years after the war began…

Dr Nelson’s comment last week that withdrawing early from Iraq could have consequences for Australia in terms of energy security has attracted international attention. “What Brendan was talking about was a different point, the point that was made in the security update that the globe has an interest in energy security,” Mr Costello told ABC TV.

“It is possible to see down the track that you could have wars over energy if growing industrial powers felt that their interests were being contained, but that is not Iraq.”

Asked if withdrawal would push up fuel prices, Mr Costello said: “It might. It might not.” “We’re all interested in the price at the petrol pump but Australian soldiers don’t risk their lives for petrol prices.”

Mr Costello said while intelligence about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq had been wrong, the allied invasion of Iraq had been justified by bringing democracy to Iraq.”



Government splits on Iraq war oil link, ABC News, 5 July 2007.

“Speaking this morning, Dr Nelson said oil was among the reasons to keep troops in Iraq. “Energy security is extremely important to all nations throughout the world, and of course, in protecting and securing Australia’s interests,” he said. “The Middle East itself, not only Iraq, but the entire region is an important supplier of energy oil, in particular, to the rest of the world.”


ABC News, Youtube, July 2007.


Australian Prime Minister Blasts Obama’s Iraq Policy, Fox News, 11 February 2007.

“Australia’s conservative prime minister slammed Barack Obama on Sunday over his opposition to the Iraq war, a day after the first-term U.S. senator announced his intention to run for the White House in 2008.

Obama said Saturday at his campaign kickoff in Springfield, Ill., that one of the country’s first priorities should be ending the war in Iraq. He has also introduced a bill in the Senate to prevent President Bush from increasing American troop levels in Iraq and to remove U.S. combat forces from the country by March 31, 2008.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch Bush ally who has sent troops to Iraq and faces his own re-election bid later this year, said Obama’s proposals would spell disaster for the Middle East.

“I think that will just encourage those who want to completely destabilize and destroy Iraq, and create chaos and a victory for the terrorists to hang on and hope for an Obama victory,” Howard said on Nine Network television.

“If I were running Al Qaeda in Iraq, I would put a circle around March 2008 and be praying as many times as possible for a victory, not only for Obama but also for the Democrats.”

“There’s no way by March 2008, which is a little over a year from now, everything will have been stabilised so that America can get out in March 2008,” Mr Howard said. “Al Qaeda will trumpet it as the greatest victory they’ve ever had.”

“And, if America is defeated in Iraq, the hope of ever getting a Palestinian settlement will be gone.”

Howard has defied widespread domestic opposition to the war, keeping about 1,400 Australian troops in and around Iraq, mostly in non-combat roles. He is seeking a fifth term later this year, and recent polls suggest voters are increasingly unhappy about his refusal to set a deadline for withdrawing Australian troops from the Middle East.

“You either rat on the ally or you stay with the ally,” he said. “If it’s all right for us to go, it’s all right for the Americans and the British to go, and if everybody goes, Iraq will descend into total civil war and there’ll be a lot of bloodshed.”


Howard’s Iraq policy is about helping mates, not the Iraqi people, Hugh White, Sydney Morning Herald, 1 November 2006.

“AUSTRALIAN policy on Iraq is pretty simple, and it has never had much to do with Iraq itself. It has always been about Washington, and especially about President George Bush. We helped invade Iraq in 2003 to support Bush; we sent troops back to help with the resulting mess last year to support Bush, and when the time comes the troops will return home – most likely – when the US decides to leave.

For that reason don’t pay attention to what the Government says about what is happening in Iraq. When John Howard talks about how vital Iraq is in the war on terrorism, he is simply saying what needs to be said to support Bush, and to justify the choices he has made to back Bush’s policies over the past five years.”


Australia keeps troops in Iraq for US sake: Howard says his country’s troops must remain in Iraq to protect government’s ties with US despite domestic pressure, Middle East Online, 27 October 2006.

“Australia should keep its troops in Iraq in order to protect the country’s ties with superpower ally the United States, Prime Minister John Howard said. Howard, a keen supporter of US President George W. Bush’s administration, told supporters at a dinner in New South Wales late Thursday he stood by his domestically unpopular decision to send troops to Iraq and would assume responsibility for it.

Loyalty and friendship were critically important and were only tested when under pressure, the conservative prime minister stressed. “And the idea that Australia could walk out of Iraq and walk out of the coalition (of the willing), and imagine that that would be prosperous in terms of our alliance and our friendship with the United States is living in fairyland,” he said. “Part of our obligation as a good friend to the people of the United States is to understand the importance of maintaining a place in that alliance and the importance of maintaining our involvement in the coalition,” he said.

Pulling troops out of Iraq would also condemn the country to certain civil war, he said.”



Iraq war paved way for new era in Middle East, says Howard, Tom Allard, The Sydney Morning Herald, 7 March 2005.

“The Prime Minister, John Howard, has credited the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as a catalyst for Syria’s withdrawal from Lebanon and other promising democratic developments in the Middle East.”


Australia steps up Iraq commitment, ABC News online, 22 February 2005.

“Prime Minister John Howard has announced a dramatic escalation in Australia’s military contribution to Iraq, at a cost of up to $300 million a year.

Mr Howard says Iraq is at a “tilting point” after the country’s landmark elections and Australia will send an extra 450 soldiers to what he describes as a “reasonably violence-free” area of southern Iraq…

Mr Howard says it is essential that Australia contribute more to help rebuild Iraq.

“The Government believes that Iraq is very much at a tilting point and it’s very important that the opportunity of democracy, not only in Iraq but also in other parts of the Middle East, be seized and consolidated,” he said.

Mr Howard says the additional Australian forces will be needed in the country for at least a year.

“This has not been, is not and will not be an easy decision for the Government,” he said. “I know it will be unpopular with many.

“I ask those people to take into account the reasons that I have given. I believe this is the right decision. It will make a significant contribution to the coalition effort.”



Australia: No more troops for Iraq, CNN World News, 17 October 2004.

“The U.N. Security Council resolution that recognized the interim government in June called on member nations to contribute troops to provide security for U.N. staff in Iraq, but few countries have agreed to commit forces.

Newly re-elected Prime Minister John Howard has said consistently that Australia would not send extra troops to Iraq, after having made a vital contribution at the “sharp end” of the war in March-April of 2003.

The government’s position is that the current deployment of soldiers will remain in Iraq for as long as necessary.”


Australia accused of lying about Iraq, Al Jazeera, 9 August 2004.

“A group of more than 40 former Australian diplomats and defence chiefs has accused Prime Minister John Howard’s government of deceiving the Australian people about the reasons for invading Iraq.

The open letter on Sunday echoed similar statements issued earlier in the year by retired US and British officials, making Australia the latest of the pro-war allies to face criticism from its own former diplomats.

The statement said the electorate had been misled over the reasons for joining the US-led invasion of Iraq, and democracy could not work properly if people could not trust their elected representatives.

“We are concerned that Australia was committed to join the invasion of Iraq on the basis of false assumptions and deception of the Australian people,” the statement said…

“The prime minister said in March 2003 that our policy was the disarmament of Iraq not the removal of Saddam Hussein.”

It said Australia’s involvement had raised the country’s profile as a “terrorist target”.

The statement was signed by former defence force chiefs Alan Beaumont and Peter Gration, former defence department secretary Paul Barratt, former prime minister’s department secretaries Alan Renouf and Richard Woolcott as well as former ambassadors, including Rawdon Dalrymple, Stephen Fitzgerald and Ross Garnaut.”


See Also