CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia is considering joining airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in Syria, the prime minister said Thursday.
Australian F/A-18 Super Hornet jet fighters have been striking Islamic State targets in northern Iraq from their base in Dubai since October last year. Australia sent warplanes and military advisers into the Iraq campaign at the request of the U.S. and Iraqi governments. But Australia drew the line at airstrikes in Syria, where it does not recognize President Bashar Assad’s administration.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said that while the United States has yet to make a formal request for airstrikes in Syria, “the matter has been raised.”
“No decision has been taken, but I don’t want to pretend for a second that this campaign at the moment is going perfectly well,” Abbott told reporters.
“While the legality is different, whether these airstrikes are taking place in Syria or Iraq, the morality is the same,” he added.
While the opposition Labor Party supports Australian involvement in Iraq, it questioned the legal basis of Australian airstrikes in Syria.
“Without a clear legal basis for Australian involvement and without a clear plan — like, what does victory in Syria look like? — I think it would be very dangerous to send Australian personnel into one of the most dangerous places on earth right now,” opposition spokeswoman on foreign affairs Tanya Plibersek said.
The government can send fighter jets into Syria without seeking Parliament’s permission, although a political squabble could damage public support for a new campaign in Syria.