NEITHER Kevin Rudd nor Tony Abbott will talk of armed intervention in the Syrian crisis, but Australian officers are already working with US allies on a plan if one is needed.
No such plans are being made in Canberra, but concerns are growing in the wake of chemical weapons claims and strong words from the Prime Minister.
Asked on Channel 10’s The Project whether he supported Australian intervention in the country in the wake of reports up to 1300 were killed in a chemical massacre, the PM would not go that far, but left the door open.
“The challenge now is to establish the absolute fact of whether the regime used those chemical weapons,” he said.
“If they did then I believe we have a major international crisis on our hands.”
Mr Rudd also reiterated Australia’s major alliance with the United States, where Australian military officers are working alongside the the US military in the Pentagon to help draw up war plans for an American-led intervention.
The news comes a day after it was alleged that government forces had attacked and killed up to 1300 civilians with chemical weapons in and around the capital Damascus.
“Planning sessions involving Australians are under way to brief the administration on options,” a well-placed source said.
While no specific plans are being considered as yet by the Australian Defence Force, senior officers in Canberra have demanded updated intelligence briefings on the situation.
That material includes top-secret human intelligence summaries from Australian and allied spies in the field and hi-tech signals intelligence collected by satellites and other interception methods, including radio and phone traffic.
France has threatened the international community will use armed force against Syria if the chemical massacre is confirmed.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said if the United Nations Security Council was unable to make a move, “decisions will be taken in other ways”.
“If this is proven, France’s position is that there must be a reaction,” Mr Fabius told French television network BFM.
“There would have to be a reaction with force in Syria from the international community, but there is no question of sending troops on the ground.”
…Mr Rudd hinted that if chemical weapons had been used against civilians then Australia could not ignore such a breach of international law and decent human behaviour.
“No civilised country can stand idly by when there is the threat of chemical weapons being used … against civilians,” he said.
“The use of weapons of mass destruction in any circumstances is intolerable and unacceptable in any civilised nation.”
Mr Rudd did not elaborate on the options that Australia might pursue, but others noted that he was a very vocal supporter of the Libyan intervention without making a contribution.
Russia reacted cautiously to the new claims, saying that it suspected provocation by rebels as UN weapons inspectors were about to begin their work.
Head of the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre at the Australian National University, Hugh White, said the world had been wrestling with the question of a military intervention in Syria for two years.
“The arguments for intervention were already high before this latest incident, but there are simply no effective means for intervention,” Professor White said.
He said Mr Abbott was correct to be cautious but he warned that the US could intervene without United Nations support.
“It really depends on what you want intervention to achieve,” he said.
“If it is to destroy stockpiles of chemical weapons then that it very difficult to achieve. First you have to find them and then you have to be able to destroy them.”
Full article: Australian military planners in Washington work on Syrian war plans (Perth Now)