Tuesday, March 13, 2012

In Whose Interest?

Pure coincidence, but it's interesting how the following news should come on the heels of my last post:

"A secret squadron of Australian SAS soldiers has been operating at large in Africa, performing work normally done by spies, in an unannounced and possibly dangerous expansion of Australia's foreign military engagement... The Herald has confirmed that troopers from the [SAS 4] squadron have mounted dozens of secret operations during the past year in various African nations, including Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Kenya. They have been out of uniform and not accompanied by Australian Secret Intelligence Service [ASIS] officers with whom undercover SAS forces are conventionally deployed. It is believed the missions have involved gathering intelligence on terrorism and scoping rescue strategies for Australian civilians trapped by kidnapping or civil war. But the operations have raised serious concerns within the Australian military and intelligence community because they involve countries where Australia is not at war... Despite the dangers, the then foreign affairs minister Kevin Rudd last year asked for troopers from 4 Squadron to be used in Libya during the conflict. His plan was thwarted by opposition from the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, and the Chief of the Australian Defence Force, General David Hurley." (Secret SAS teams hunt for terrorists, Rafael Epstein & Dylan Welch, Sydney Morning Herald, 13/3/12)

But really this should come as no surprise:

"Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has phoned Prime Minister John Howard to thank him for the role played by Australian special forces sent deep into Iraq to destroy missile sites aimed at Israel. While little detail has emerged about the activities of the SAS in the second Gulf War, indications are that its soldiers went in to knock out missiles aimed at Israel and at Arab countries helping the coalition cause. A major concern of coalition planners was that the hawkish Israeli Government would launch its own attacks on Iraq if Iraqi missiles landed on its territory - particularly if they were loaded with chemical or biological weapons... The US is understood to have assured Israel that it would be in a position to deal with any such threat before hostilities started.

"Israel's ambassador to Australia, Gabi Levy, told The Sunday Age that Mr Sharon rang Mr Howard a week ago to convey his appreciation for the part Australia played. That followed a March 25 call from Israel's foreign minister, Silvan Shalom, to his Australian counterpart, Alexander Downer, in which he passed on the appreciation and gratitude of Israelis for the job the SAS soldiers did in western Iraq. Mr Levy said Mr Downer briefed Mr Shalom on the coalition forces' activities in western Iraq and said that their aim was to prevent Scud missile attacks on Israel. Mr Downer said a high priority was given to that goal. It seems likely that the SAS moved into Iraq at least 2 days before the 'official' war started on March 20 with a cruise missile bombardment of Baghdad intended to kill the Iraqi leadership... Mr Levy said he knew nothing of speculation from the US that Australian and Israeli special forces operated together in western Iraq. On March 29, New York's Daily News reported that Israel was engaged behind the scenes providing satellite intelligence to supplement that of the US. It said Israeli agents in Baghdad had provided sensitive information to the US and its Sayeret Matkal commandos were operating in the desert in western Iraq with American and Australian special forces." (Sharon thanks PM for help, Brendan Nicholson, The Age, 13/4/03)

The question arises: Are we off on a frolic all our own, or are we just gormlessly tagging along with our USraeli mates again?

After all, the Israelis recently concluded a deal with Kenya, declaring that "Kenya's enemies are Israel's enemies" (Israel increase in support for Kenya's al-Shabaab battle draws fresh threats, Mike Pflanz, telegraph.co.uk, 15/11/11).

Ditto for Nigeria. In the words of Israel's ambassador to that country: "Our hands are always open to our friends and partners. Nigeria is one of them. Efforts are on the way over this, we cannot say more than that now. It falls under a bi-lateral arrangement and relationship" (Israel joins Nigeria to fight Boko Haram, Konye Obaji Ori, theafricareport.com, 8/3/12).

Further, hadn't Haaretz' security expert, Yossi Melman, declared on our own Radio National in 2010:

"A third role [of Mossad] was to maintain secret, clandestine but very vital and useful contacts with its counterparts, whether it's... ASIO or... the CIA or... MI6. And they have developed over the years, very, very intimate relations, sharing information and... assessments and even, nowadays, going into the field, enjoying the operations in the war against global terrorism"* (The Mossad, Rear Vision, 24/3/10).

Watch this space.

[*See my 29/5/10 post All the Way with Mossad.]

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