Australia’s extensive interests in the Middle East would be better served by an active and well-resourced diplomacy than tokenistic actions such as the deployment of small and ultimately inconsequential military forces, according to a new report released by the Australia Institute today.
As Australia sends a deployment to the Strait of Hormuz, President Trump’s decision to authorise the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran’s special operations forces, and Iran’s decision to launch ballistic missile attacks on two US-Iraqi bases in retaliation, has introduced yet another element of unpredictability into the Middle East situation.
“Australia has an Embassy in Tehran. The US does not. We should use it,” said Allan Behm, head of the Australia Institute’s International and Security Affairs Program.
“While Australia does have military forces deployed in Iraq as part of the US coalition, we are far from being a key player. President Trump has encouraged NATO to step up its involvement in the Middle East, but NATO members, like Australia, are in no position to call the shots in the Middle East.”
The report shows Australia’s interests in the Middle East fall into two major categories:
- at a minimum, avoidance of the strategic, political and economic consequences of great power, inter-state and intra-state military competition in the region, including nuclear competition;
- more importantly, as a nation enjoying considerable power and influence internationally, Australia has significant interests in building and working with the international coalitions that create, uphold and promote the international rules-based order on which our long-term prosperity and security depend.
“Australia’s interests in the Middle East are significantly more dependent on regional stability, peaceful economic development and social cohesion than they are on the maintenance of military stand-offs or the prolongation of military tension,” said Behm.