Australian troops out of Iraq NOW!
Recent attacks on the Taji military base near Baghdad, and repeated demands by the Iraqi government for US and coalition troops to leave their country, require the Australian government to bring Australian troops home now.
The Taji military base, 30 kms north of the capital, houses US and other coalition forces, together with troops of the new Iraqi Army and the Iraqi National Guard. The coalition forces include some 300 Australians and a smaller number of New Zealanders, mostly in training roles.
Australia signed on 5 years before the illegal invasion
Australia’s complicity in the illegal US imperialist invasion and occupation of Iraq is often dated from the day of the invasion, March 20, 2003. In fact, Cabinet papers released earlier this year reveal that Australia lined up with the US and signed on to a future invasion five years before, in 1998.
At the start of 1998, Baghdad suspended cooperation with the UN weapons inspection regime on Iraq’s biological, chemical and missile capabilities. US President Bill Clinton spoke with the Prime Ministers of Canada, New Zealand and Australia about a coalition of the killing. Australian PM John Howard immediately agreed. On 20 February 1998, cabinet approved two sets of rules of engagement In Iraq, one for peacetime, and one “for use during conflict”.
If ever proof were needed that parliament is a sham, and that the real decisions are not made in front of the Australian people, but behind closed American doors, this was it.
Australia defies Iraq parliament and stays on
Acting like Depression-era Chicago gangsters, the US imperialists violated Iraqi sovereignty and international law by assassinating Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani, commander of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of Iraq's paramilitary Hashd Shaabi forces, in a strike near Baghdad airport on January 3.
Two days later, in an extraordinary parliamentary session on Sunday January 5, the Iraqi parliament called on the government to end all foreign troop presence in Iraq and to cancel its request for assistance from the US-led coalition which had been working with Baghdad to fight ISIS.
"The government commits to revoke its request for assistance from the international coalition fighting Islamic State due to the end of military operations in Iraq and the achievement of victory," the resolution read.
"The Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason."
Trump, acting like a schoolyard bully, threatened to impose economic sanctions on Iraq if it refused to house US troops, and said Iraq would be required to pay for the cost of any US troop withdrawal.
On Tuesday January 7, the Australian Defence Force suspended all training operations in Iraq, but subsequently chose, like the US, to ignore the resolution of the Iraqi parliament.
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds justified Australia’s denial of Iraqi sovereignty, saying "Australia's focus remains on supporting Iraq's stability and unity and ensuring a de-escalation of tensions."
On January 24, over nearly a million Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad to demand that the US and coalition forces comply with the resolution of the Iraqi parliament. According to the BBC, “Many carried Iraq's national flags as well as placards denouncing the US military presence in Iraq. ‘Death to America!’ demonstrators chanted…”
Late in the evening of 11 March, and through to the early hours of the following day, Taji base came under sustained rocket fire. There were no Australian casualties although two US soldiers and one British soldier were killed and others severely injured.
The US launched retaliatory air strikes at facilities in Iraq that the Pentagon linked to the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia, which it blamed for the attack on Taji. The retaliatory strikes were meant to deter militia from staging any more rocket attacks
However, two days later, on Saturday 14 March 2020 at approximately midday local time, a further rocket attack occurred, again without Australian casualties. Three American troops and several Iraqi forces were wounded. 33 Katyusha rockets were fired. Later, seven rocket launchers and 24 unused rockets were found in the nearby Abu Izam area.
Tensions continue to mount in Iraq in a general three-way tussle. On Tuesday March 17 a new Prime Minister, a Shi’ite who has worked with the US, was sworn in. A Shia-dominant sectarian regime was imposed by the US after the 2003 occupation, but Iran has gradually built its influence inside Iraq. There are also large numbers of anti-Iranian Iraqis who have challenged the government over issues of corruption and economic crisis. And there are the imperialists who want to continue to hold Iraq.
A fourth factor has also erupted with the spread of Covid-19 to Iraq. Iraq’s health services will struggle to contain the virus, and its arrival coincides with a sharp plunge in the price of oil, reducing Iraq's revenues from exports at a time the country's needs funds to battle the virus and tend to infected citizens.
Bring our troops home
Australian troops should never have been sent to support the illegal US invasion of Iraq. The two major Australian political parties are cheerleaders for US imperialism, creating foreign (US) military bases on our soil and ensuring that Australia is to the US what the Gurkhas were to British imperialism.
In the face of increasing tensions in Iraq, and in deference to the wishes of its parliament, Australian forces must be withdrawn now!