Australia to consult with Iran before Syria air strikes nod

Australia would consult Iran before agreeing to bomb Islamic State strongholds in Syria, according to Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.

Fairfax Media reported on Thursday that Bishop would seek the advice of Iran’s leaders before agreeing to a formal request from Washington, D.C. about expanding Australia’s aerial operations into Islamic State-held areas in Syria.

Bishop said she was keen to push for more regional cooperation with Shiite nations in the fight against the Islamic State (IS) — which made up predominately of Shiite Muslims.

The foreign minister visited Iran in April, in an effort to open up communication channels and information sharing between the two nations while, in June, Bishop also called upon other UN nations to involve Iran in talks regarding the coordination of the campaign in IS-held territories.

On Thursday, Bishop told Fairfax that Iran was a key nation in the region that should be consulted before proceeding with any further aerial action.

“If the Australian government agrees to the U.S. request to expand its air combat operations against (IS) into Syria, the government would consult with a number of other nations including Iran,” she said.

“I have consulted with the Iranian leadership in the past on Australia’s military role in Iraq, including training members of the Iraqi army.”

“Australia conducts regular dialogue with Iran on a range of important bilateral, regional and international issues affecting both of our countries. This includes the activities of Daesh in Iraq and Syria.”

The news came a day after reports surfaced that Australia’s prime minister had initiated talks about expanding the country’s role in the war.

But on Wednesday, Tony Abbott denied that he introduced talks of expanding Australia’s role in the region, despite a report in local media that quoted government figures as saying Abbott pushed the U.S. to formally ask for more Australian involvement.

Abbott said the notion of intensifying Australian aerial missions in the region was prompted by U.S. President Barack Obama.

“The president had initiated this phone call to talk about the Trans-Pacific Partnership and, after I’d initially expressed my condolences for the terrorist shootings in (Tennessee), the president then raised with me the Syrian situation and said that he would be very glad if Australia would do more, including air strikes,” Abbott told the media on Wednesday.

“I said that I was happy to consider that request and our officials would talk and now this request has come from the Pentagon.” Xinhua