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Is ISIS a threat to national security?

Tony Abbott has repeatedly decried the “apocalyptic death cult” ISIS as a threat to our national security but is that true?

Do they present a military threat to, or engage in political coercion in, Australia?

Do they threaten our economic security, energy security, or environmental security?

Perhaps, to a very small degree, yes, but is the risk worth the investment?

Authorities believe that around 150 Australians are currently fighting alongside ISIS in Iraq and Syria, making the country the highest foreign per capita contributor to the violence according to Time.

Speaking to the ABC, Julie Bishop said “This is one of the most disturbing developments in our domestic security in quite some time. There’s a real danger that these extremists also come back home as trained terrorists and pose a threat to our security.”

I guess so. But none of them have returned and carried out a successful attack here. Apparently some threatened/planned to and got locked up, which tells me that our security forces have adequate resources to protect us from organised domestic threats.

What they cannot, and will never be able to, protect us from is random attacks carried out by people with mental illnesses. The man who carried out the Lindt café siege was well known to authorities and deemed not a threat but he snapped, just like the woman in Cairns who, the next day, stabbed to death 8 children. Where is the report on our mental health industry which has been sitting on someone’s desk since last November?

As has been pointed out countless times, domestic violence is a far greater threat to Australian society, taking a far greater toll, yet compare the money devoted to addressing it with the billions spent on a foreign war and increased surveillance in Australia.

As far as threats to our economic. energy, or environmental security are concerned, our government, in cahoots with big business, pose a far greater threat on that front.

As Jocelyn Chey of the Australian Institute of International Affairs points out,

  1. There is no UN agreement on this campaign
  2. Our Defence policy is to concentrate on regional issues
  3. No clear goals or outcomes have been defined so that the campaign, as the PM has admitted, may well drag on for years
  4. Civilian casualties are likely to be high
  5. Australia’s security threat will be increased
  6. The drain on our budget is hard to justify when the public is told that there is a national emergency and social services are being cut.

Robert O’Neill, from the same organisation argues that

“The size and nature of the conflict which is building there and in Syria suggests that we should be employing political, social and economic means to help local governments and religious groups to settle their differences. The local people have to do it – we cannot force a solution on the region with military means. Military intervention on the scale proposed is likely to undercut other efforts without achieving a lasting result. So it would be better not to send forces now; let us not forget that the lives of the men and women that we send are on the line in such a deployment. We should be very careful about balancing the risks they have to run in the line of duty with the worth of the goals that a forced deployment might achieve.”

Tony Abbott has repeatedly said they we were invited to take part in military action by the Iraqi government. This is not true. In his obscene haste to deflect attention from domestic problems by confecting a threat to “national security”, Abbott even caught Obama off guard. Our defence force was sent over with no diplomatic agreement and then spent months cooling their heels in the United Arab Emirates while our government tried to nut out a deal to allow them to carry out military operations in countries that had no desire to see foreign troops invade yet again.

Many people have argued that our previous involvement in Iraq, combined with draconian sanctions, has led to the rise of ISIS. Whilst I agree it has been a contributing factor, so have many other issues like ethnic and sectarian violence and discrimination, political disenfranchisement, the subjugation of women, government corruption, poverty and lack of education.

One thing I find very hard to reconcile is Abbott’s rhetoric about an apocalyptic death cult with his desire to return asylum seekers to face it. Far from supporting those who reject the violence and ideology of extremist cults like ISIS, we revile them, lock them up, and then try to send them back to the horror they risked their lives to flee.

To risk the lives of people who have fled this torment, and now the lives of our armed forces for a battle we cannot win, all for political gain, is unconscionable. What do we hope to achieve?

As Tony simplistically pointed out, this fight is often baddies vs baddies. Many of those involved have legitimate grievances against their oppressive, non-representative governments. We have no business being there other than to offer humanitarian aid.

This has nothing to do with national security and everything to do with our subservience to the US coupled with a desire to deflect attention from our government’s inability to do their job.

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  1. David Bruce

    We are grossly misusing our military resources in the same way we did in WW2, with our troops overseas when Australia was attacked! Perhaps Abbort is also acting on instructions from the military industrial complex so they can replace more planes tanks and Toyota trucks, that are used in combat, and then rebuild more targets, in Middle East?

  2. Matters Not

    A great post Kaye Lee. (Because that’s how I construct the present reality as well. Not that I am biased.)

    I find this emphasis on the ‘Death Cult’ somewhat strange, given his (Abbott’s) enduring adhesion to a religion that celebrates (and is characterised by) an historical figure (Jesus) on a journey to be nailed to a cross.

    Indeed, he attends church every Easter and celebrates the “Stations of the Cross” (as I understand it). About 14 separate images of Jesus on his way to a very painful death.

    Perhaps it’s a ‘Death Cult’ he is not (consciously) aware of?

    Could this ‘Death Cult’ be more widespread than … whatever.

  3. Matters Not

    Many people have argued that our previous involvement in Iraq, combined with draconian sanctions, has led to the rise of ISIS. Whilst I agree it has been a contributing factor, so have many other issues like ethnic and sectarian violence and discrimination, political disenfranchisement, the subjugation of women, government corruption, poverty and lack of education

    Again I agree. (Must be having a bad night).

    I think to understand, in part at least, what drives ISIL, one has to have some understanding of ‘Salafism’.

    Here’s a primer.

    And as you say, it’s extremely complex.

    One thing’s for sure we (Australia) shouldn’t be there.

    We are not about to rewrite 14 centuries of ‘difference’ Nor should we try.

  4. stephentardrew

    Kaye and Matters Not I am in complete agreement.

    Bring our boys and girls home and provide the best humanitarian aid possible to alleviate our shame at having been the cause of so much pain, despair and suffering for many innocent, children, women and men.

    This whole debacle is a blight on our country.

  5. paul walter

    Isis is a threat, but it is a threat for the way it is used by people like Murdoch and Abbott to further their own dark purposes.

  6. Jexpat

    Our problem lies in the fact that we don’t have a coherent overall military strategy.

    Are we primarily concerned with defence of our island? Is our role to assist in keeping sea lanes open and enforce fishery conservation? Are we a small expeditionary force to supplement- to be used as cannon fodder for fading empires- or pawns for great powers?

  7. wmmbb

    The “apocalyptic death cult” was created by the invasion of Iraq, and subsequent brutality. In other words the biblical reference is better applied to military industrial complex, which Tony is delighted to support at every opportunity it seems with with very generous donations of taxpayer funds. For some reason this spending escapes scrutiny and cost-benefit analysis.

    IS is a threat. Most directly to the people of the Middle East, and those subject to its jurisdiction. The problem is hypocrisy. How can the barbarous practices of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, while condemning the admittedly greater barbarism of IS? One answer might be to insist that all nations and governments, including IS, comply with International Human Rights Law, including the US and Australia. It is rank hypocrisy to condemn IS, while permitting the child abuse and other practices on Manus Island.

  8. mark delmege

    Lets see… where to start…. Democrat – Carter Brzezinski and Afghanistan, (you can google that)… Republican – Bush and Iraq …. Democrat – Obama and Libya or Obama in the Ukraine. Any way you cut – it’s bad news. And then there is the Obama insistence that Assad must go doctrine that has caused 4 years of US/Gulf/Turkey instigated terrorism in that once functioning secular state.

    What ever our side does creates chaos but you won’t hear about it on the AbC or SBS – not the facts not the details or the causes or even the real consequences.

    Yes ISIS is a problem. A very big problem for millions of people. Our side created it and they use it for their own purposes. Still. Western wars have killed four million Muslims since 1990

  9. Jexpat

    mark delmege seems to be saying (correct me if I’m wrong) that we’ve been caught up in “the great game.”

    …and no, I don’t mean Risk, where starting in Australia can confer an early advantage.

    Then again, maybe that’s something to think about.

  10. mark delmege

    no better than useful idiots. I wrote this about the SBS this am.
    It’s a pity that the once proud and rated multi cultural SBS has sunk so low – such a pitiful pathetic propaganda outfit for empire. They pump the Washington line every opportunity and just can’t tell the truth when it is exploding right there before their eyes. I normally avoid their ‘news and current affairs’ these days but caught two items last night. The fake war of terra in Iraq. But later some vision of journo’s in eastern Ukraine, (The so called Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics) traveling with OSCE* members. They were in ‘rebel’ held territory but could only refer to security forces there as pro Russian fighters. When someone in their group is wounded they said they couldn’t tell who is doing the fighting. Come on SBS who the hell do you think is knocking off journalists, killing civilians and attacking the Local security? Do you think they kill there own people for the sake of the international media. They (SBS) only had to look at the OSCE website to know they actually named ‘Right Sector’ aka the Nazi militia as the instigators of the latest round of fighting and breakers of the Minsk 2 ceasefire.
    *Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe

  11. mark delmege

    And while the marines settle into occupied Darwin – allegedly as part of a pivot to Asia – which I reckon is a crock of shit and really just a cover for the new great game in Africa – all tricks and manoeuvres will be used to insinuate their presence there – terror attacks and instability always a favourite of empires as far back as empires began ….

    But read the Nation with caution…

  12. Jexpat

    Well Mark, at least they’re not showing footage of devastation in Palestine -claiming that it’s Israel, like the US ABC network:

    Why ABC Thought Suffering Palestinians Were Israelis

    Or publishing laughably phoney photos of Russians purported to be in the Ukraine, like the NY Times:

    Or calling war with Iran “our best option” like the Washington Post:

  13. mark delmege

    Thats a relief jexpat.

    I have a clip here of Obama saying last year that Iran didn’t have a nuclear weapons program Yet.
    Didn’t then, don’t now. …kinda puts everything into perspective.

  14. Jexpat

    On the other hand, if you were an Iranian official, and you saw a fundamentalist madman with nuclear weapons not far from your borders -along with a great power that had a major political party dominated by belligerent, apocalyptic “End Times” fundamentalist mad people- with heaps of nuclear weapons- which has overthrown a previous, democratically elected government, installed a tyrant on a peacock throne and effectively seized your valuable resources, wouldn’t you be considering the development of your own nuclear weapons?

    Especially after watching your neighbour (albeit a hated one) being bombed into oblivion and invaded based on “journalists'” outright lies (known to be outright lies at the time).

    The good news is that despite the mad men (and women) in the respective countries, escalating a conflict with Iran is not good for international business, whereas an agreement emphatically is.

    Despite the fundamentalism all around.

  15. Kaye Lee

    James Ingram said

    “In an unseemly way our government has been the first to offer concrete material support to the projected US operation against IS. Even if the government had made a serious case for its actions it would have been inappropriate for a distant nation, with limited interests in the region and very marginal capacity to influence outcomes, to take the lead and practically beg for a formal US request. Speculation as to what motivated the Prime Minister may be left to the commentariat but his aggressive, inappropriate posturing vis-a-vis President Putin, his extravagant language about IS evil accompanied by an inability to concede that our intervention must increase the risk of a terrorist attack directed against Australia while at the same time raising the ‘threat level’ gives weight to the suspicion that the government is seeking to distract attention from its unpopularity over domestic matters. During a centenary year in which Australian military heroism is being glorified and the ‘boats have been turned back’ it would not be surprising if the image of a ‘strong’ leader totally committed to the nation’s security carries a subliminal appeal to a great many voters.”

  16. Awabakal

    I am irreligious but I love wisdom:

    What does it gain a person that they gain the earth but lose their being, their soul, their life unknown?

    Obviously, the ones who believe there is only earth and it is all theirs are the problem.

  17. Kaye Lee

    Speaking of the mental health care report….

    the government promised a revived “national approach” and new expert working group and a number of panels to deal with the report, which health minister Sussan Ley acknowledged painted a “disturbing picture” of mental health care across the country.

    Professor Hickie said more working groups and panels would only repeat the mistakes of the past that had led to the fractured and inefficient system.

    “We have got people dying in rural and regional areas every day due to a lack of services and a lack of action,” he said.

    He said the government needed to fund local health networks directly and audit state and territory services to ensure they were not cut.

    John Mendoza, an expert in mental health and head of the consultancy ConNetica, said it was “distressing” to see the minister responding to the report with a “totally bureaucratic response” of working groups.”

    It looks like Sussan Ley (who also commissioned a report by PWC into childcare even though the Productivity Commission were already engaged in producing the same report) is going to be an all talk no action minister. The consultancy companies and government cronies must be rubbing their hands with glee. Perhaps we will see Sophie Mirabella heading a panel to review mental health as there doesn’t seem to be much happening on the submarine front.

    I’m just wondering what all these new panels and working groups are for. Aren’t we supposed to be cutting bureaucracy?

  18. Möbius Ecko

    Kaye Lee there are two glaring incongruities since this government came to power that the media have have (deliberately) ignored.

    1. When Rudd first came to power the MSM over a considerable period pounded him for his establishment of committees and enquiries along lines of him being all talk no action.

    This government in its first six months established more committees and enquiries than the entire periods of the last two Labor governments, and since then have gone on to smash all records on enquiries, witch hunts and spending on consultancies whilst achieving little to nothing. In other words actually being all talk no action.

    2. Rudd on gaining power was pounded by the MSM over a considerable period for being all about stunts and having no substance, and about his pets on the Lodge lawns.

    Yet Abbott is actually about nothing but stunt after stunt, from Lycra to eating a raw skin on onion, and having not an iota of substance on anything.

    These two things have stuck in my craw for a long time now.

  19. Kaye Lee

    The coalition that might make a difference in the ISIL case is one to be negotiated between Ankara, Cairo, Riyadh and Baghdad. ISIL is certainly a danger to the interests of these states and regimes. If such a coalition cannot be assembled – our foreign minister would be well-served by a visit to all of these players to hear their views first-hand – then no external coalition is likely to provide a substitute. Meanwhile, arming the Kurds might just succeed in offending those very states whose influence must be brought to bear for there to be any prospect of a resolution of the ISIL problem.

    It should also be kept in mind that until the Iraqi political system is placed on a broader basis – itself a tall order – the region lacks a vital element for a road map that would lead to a more settled future.

    While the Arab states and the Kurds may all agree that they don’t want a viable Islamic State carved out of Syria and Iraq they are most unlikely to be able to agree on what they do want. Turkey, Iraq and Syria’s key neighbour, abhors the possibility of the Kurds becoming a state, has in practice helped the emergence of IS and has not committed to support American policy. Saudi Arabia and others have helped IS financially and in other ways. The Sunni minority benefitted from Saddam Hussein’s rule and the Shia majority was oppressed. The Shia will not risk that situation returning.

  20. mark delmege

    That’s true Jex but nukes can never be used – at least not by a small power anyway. Iran would be reduced to WTC sized dust (you can google that too) and just blow away. But as a country you would no doubt get a little jumpy a little or a lot suspicious of outside interference and be wary of all the tactics used to promote colour coded revolutions – from assassinations, street rabble, media manipulations, psychological operations and perception management – especially from front groups like the Soros funded HRW and others with (former) military people on their board – and even foreign funded terrorist groups operating on your borders.
    It would be a hard slog to counter all that and most have failed.

  21. Zathras

    Like Al Quaeda, ISIS was created by the West for the same reason – the outsourcing of political regime change.

    The former were the result of a manufactured effort to outsource the fight with the Russians in Afghanistan while the latter were likewise trained and equipped to oust Gaddafi from Libya. They then moved on to Syria and were our allies for a while.

    Why should we surprised?

    Whe it comes to Apocalyptic Death Cults, Christianity tops them all. Their inevitable end game is the Battle of Armageddon and some seem to be working diligently to speed the whole process along.

    The local security threat that ISIS poses is mainly the threat to security of the current government and is a handly distraction.

  22. Awabakal

    IRAN: Life of Jews Living in Iran

    Iran remains home to Jewish enclave.

    Teheran – The Jewish women in the back rows of the synagogue wear long garments in the traditional Iranian style, but instead of chadors, their heads are covered with cheerful, flowered scarves. The boys in their skullcaps, with Hebrew prayer books tucked under their arms, scamper down the aisles to grab the best spots near the lush, turquoise Persian carpet of the altar. This is Friday night, Shabbat – Iranian style, and the synagogue in an affluent neighborhood of North Tehran is filled to capacity with more than 400 worshipers.

    It is one of the many paradoxes of the Islamic Republic of Iran that this most virulent anti-Israeli country supports by far the largest Jewish population of any Muslim country.

    While Jewish communities in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria have all but vanished, Iran is home to 25,000 – some here say 35,000 – Jews. The Jewish population is less than half the number that lived here before the Islamic revolution of 1979

    Iran’s Jewish community is confronted by contradictions. Many of the prayers uttered in synagogue, for instance, refer to the desire to see Jerusalem again. Yet there is no postal service or telephone contact with Israel, and any Iranian who dares travel to Israel faces imprisonment and passport confiscation. ”We are Jews, not Zionists. We are a religious community, not a political one,” Yashaya said.

    Before the revolution, Jews were well-represented among Iran’s business elite, holding key posts in the oil industry, banking and law, as well as in the traditional bazaar. The wave of anti-Israeli sentiment that swept Iran during the revolution, as well as large-scale confiscations of private wealth, sent thousands of the more affluent Jews fleeing to the United States or Israel. Those remaining lived in fear of pogroms, or massacres.

    But Khomeini met with the Jewish community upon his return from exile in Paris and issued a ”fatwa” decreeing that the Jews were to be protected. Similar edicts also protect Iran’s tiny Christian minority.

    There might be a bit of a problem reducing Iran to Micron MO.25 powder, but one never knows the mind of the enemy.

  23. stephentardrew

    This whole right wing neo-con economic rationalist supply side economics has gotten totally out of had internationally. It may seem off subject however it is the larger picture that is critically important as domination by corporations and their banking lackeys effect those across the world who are suffering the most. These damnable lying hypocrites play with the lives of people across the planet in a game of Russian roulette and rabid self interest.

    “Review of World Bank documents reveals electricity, water and transport projects contravened safeguards designed to protect rights of indigenous people.”

    Progressives are going to have the fight for their lives to counter these greed infested oligarchs and their military pawns while the left has abandoned a truly progressive movement of social justice, equity and utilitarian distribution of wealth and goods. The IMF and the World Bank have become a travesty. Seriously folks we are in big trouble.

    World Bank breaks its own rules as millions lose land and livelihoods

  24. stephentardrew

    Like your response this morning Kaye this makes me absolutely ropeable.

    Further to the World Bank fiasco here is an informative interactive.

    “World Bank lending: how the organisation rode roughshod over its own rules – interactive

    World Bank data shows that, between 2004 and 2013, the organisation made loans worth $60bn to poor countries, resulting in the displacement of millions

    World Bank breaks its own rules as millions lose land and livelihoods

  25. paul walter

    Isn’t it just a bit like the Tory attitude to Infrastructure projects in Victoria as typified by Sue Boyce on the Drum early this week.

    Projects are not implemented to provide benefits for a community footed with the bills, but exists as “opportunities” for bankers and developers.

  26. dwejevans

    george w. abbutt!………..No matter how you look at it, the fool is definitely “Australias’ most dangerous ‘politician”!

  27. Rafe Falkiner

    Beautifully said……… Again……..Keep up the good work. How can this be bought to the attention of boguns who agree with the ratbag

  28. Aortic

    Only six flags, can’t be true whatever it is. Where is Peta by the way?

  29. mark delmege


  30. Roswell

    Abbott himself is the greatest threat.

  31. tet02

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I seem to recall a group of freedom fighters being backed by the U.S. to oust Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. Then after being armed and bashed by the Syrian regime decided it would be far easier and much more viable to go and belt an already beaten Iraq, and out of the dust ISIS was born.
    And as for them destroying all the relics, they may have destroyed a few for the camera, but rest assured the rest are making their way onto the black market

  32. warning

    Syria is up in flames, the fire has spread into Iraq (which was still smouldering away with sectarian violence ), and the only answer anyone has is to add oil (or perhaps high explosives) to the conflagration.

    The only true answer is to give humanitarian support to those protecting civilians and try to reduce the quantity of weapons in the area. (put out some fire, remove the fuel source) Instead weapons are being handed out to everyone and anyone under the guise of “aid”.

  33. muntedewok

    ISIS is as much a threat to Australia as a polar bear is of attacking me in my own home. Zero.

  34. Awabakal

    No, America is a threat to Australia.

    Victor Olevich: Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov recently stated that the goal of the sanctions imposed by the US and the EU against Russia is regime change in Moscow. Can Washington’s campaign against Putin backfire?

    William Lind: Yes, of course. The United States and the EU are being hurt by the sanctions also. Russia has very strong foreign currency reserves, and it owes about 800 billion dollars to Western banks, with much of that starting to come due. Now, because of the sanctions, Russia is not going to be able to roll that over by borrowing more in the West. Obviously, what Russia can do in that case is say that it is suspending payment on all loans due to institutions in countries that are participating in the sanctions until the sanctions are lifted. Suddenly, the sanctions will hurt Europe much more than they hurt Russia, because Europe will have another massive banking crisis on its hands. There was a news flash last week about Russia and China buying a great deal of gold. This points to another way the sanctions can backfire. The rest of the world, and not just Russia, is getting tired of the United States trying to dictate to institutions, particularly banks, in their own countries, on what they will do, as if they were American institutions in complete disregard for their national sovereignty. One way to destroy this entire sanctions tool, not just in the case of Russia but also in regards to other countries, is to move trade to a gold basis instead of a dollar basis. The the role of American banks will become irrelevant, because trade will be completed in gold.…overnment/5957

    “Large numbers of Russian troops are massing on the Ukrainian/Russian border. The word is that American troops are in Ukraine. This all came from a Fox News alert about 10 minutes ago. 2:55 EST.

    There will be a war, no doubt about it. The Russians have NATO getting too close to their borders. Combine that with the possibility of the economy of CONUS going into the tank.
    When countries become weak (as we have become), our enemies become emboldened.
    The Russians(in my opinion) don’t want to wait for a Republican president to be elected in the USA. They’d rather deal with Mr. Obama.”
    [ from a US blog site]

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