Who is doing the heavy lifting in Iraq?

Obviously, the United States is playing the major role but from the table published in The Age, Australia appears to be making a contribution that is entirely disproportionate to the threat posed within our region.

The FA -18 super Hornet is not well equipped to do humanitarian aid drops. Perhaps we sent the wrong plane

The FA -18 super Hornet is not well equipped to do humanitarian aid drops. Perhaps we sent the wrong plane

The table does not mention the Australian commitment of eight FA 18 super Hornets but does mention “humanitarian aid drops”

What should be of great concern to Australians is that, without knowing exactly what our contribution to the airstrikes will involve, Australia is contributing approximately 30% of the fighting capability at what Tony Abbott estimates will be around $1 billion per year. We can certainly expect this to increase because the commitment is going to be subject to incremental increases as the war on the ground intensifies.

The US top military commander, General Martin Dempsey, opened the door to a deeper combat role on the ground for coalition forces, and former chief of army Peter Leahy said the Abbott government should be ready to consider expanding ground operations if military commanders said it was needed.

The now-retired senior defence insider, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said it was an accepted fact within the Australian Defence Force that special forces troops were being deployed because they are the ADF’s most lethal force.

“You don’t send in the SAS to run seminars and give white-board presentations back at headquarters,” the former top tactician said.

“These guys are our most highly trained killers, and that’s what they will be doing.”

He said the claim that they will be used purely as “advisers” to the Iraqi security forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga was “pretty absurd”.

What we’re seeing here is very carefully orchestrated campaign of “media creep” where the commentary of selected individuals associated with the military prepares the public for announcements for increased military engagement.

The Australian government would be well advised to make its ongoing commitment to this conflict to be dependent upon other nations, particularly those in the region, doing some of the heavy lifting.

Like Saudi Arabia. They’ve got an extremely large air force, over 600 combat-ready fighters.

Some of Saudi Arabia's airforce. The planes in this photo equal Australia's total strike power

Some of Saudi Arabia’s airforce. The planes in this photo equal Australia’s total strike power

Australia by comparison has 100 combat ready fighters, 24 of which are FA-!8 Super Hornets.

Australian GDP is 1.561 trillion USD twice that of Saudi Arabia (745.3 billion USD). Yet Saudi Arabia has an air force that is six times the size of Australia’s and to date they’ve committed none of it to the conflict in the Middle East.

Looking at the list of countries that are participating, one significant absentee is Indonesia which has a population of 200 million and the largest Muslim population in the world. When I was in Indonesia a few years ago I was reassured that “only about 1% of the population is radical Muslim.” That’s 2 million people if this estimate is correct. So why isn’t Indonesia concerned about the threat posed by ISIS? It’s interesting that a country that has been plagued by sectarian violence (seven terrorist attacks since 2010) is sitting on its hands.

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