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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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Creeping Normalcy: boots are already on the ground in Syria and Iraq

Almost three years after the first US operations against the Islamic State commenced in Iraq, the US footprint in Iraq and Syria continues to grow, though the contributions of its allies largely remain static. There are now in excess of 5,000 US troops in Iraq, and close to 1,000 in Syria. Reportedly, the Trump Administration is also set to abolish the troop caps officially set by the Obama Administration (5,000 in Iraq and 500 in Syria), enabling even larger deployments.  Read more...

Back here again - safe zones in Syria

The creation of a safe zone in Syria was consistently ruled-out by the Obama Administration as a fraught, expensive and partial solution to the crisis, despite international calls for action. In a 10 February interview, Syrian President Assad alluded to some of these complexities and rejected President Trump’s plan to establish such an area in Syria.   Read more...

Iraq's humanitarian crisis grows

The operation to retake Mosul has reinvigorated the international community’s interest in the humanitarian dimensions of the conflict in Iraq. This has also resulted in a raft of recent donations to address the coming crisis – many groups estimate up to 1.5 million people could potentially being displaced or affected by the operation to retake the city. However, Iraq’s humanitarian and development needs extend far beyond the immediate requirements in Mosul. Read more...

Turkey: from bad to worse

The Turkish Government’s ongoing response to the 15 July coup will almost certainly exacerbate, rather than address, the significant problems it has been facing in recent years. Turkey’s Kurdish issue, the threat from Islamic State, Syrian refugees and its increasingly polarised society are key challenges for Turkey, as are its tumultuous foreign relationships. And these challenges will only be compounded by the inevitable divisions within the military following the failed coup and Erdoğan’s now-widespread efforts to purge the country of any opposition.  Read more...

Israeli election 2015: six stand-outs

Following a typically lively 14-week campaign, Israelis went to the polls on 17 March. Incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will almost certainly remain in that post, most probably forming a right-wing/religious coalition.  Read more...

‘Diplomatic terrorism’: Palestinian statehood, the United Nations, and Australia’s voting record

The issue of Palestinian statehood is once again before the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). In September 2011, the Palestinian Authority submitted an application for full UN membership. Needing UNSC approval for such a bid, the application was eventually withdrawn or not fully pursued, under the public threat of a US veto. Now, with a new application possible, a look back at Australia’s voting record on this issue provides some hints as to how Australia might vote if an application for Palestinian United Nations membership is made before 31 December. Read more...

Say that again: Iraq and the terrorist threat

On 1 September 2014, the Prime Minister delivered in parliament a Statement on Iraq in which he condemned the ongoing violence and outlined the next phase of the Government’s humanitarian intervention. However, in declaring that would-be terrorists ‘don’t hate us for what we do; but for who we are and for how we live’, Mr Abbott has revived a key element of the Howard Government refrain from over 10 years ago that Australia’s involvement in the US-led ‘War on Terror’ and the conflict in Iraq did not make Australia more of a terrorist target. Read more...

The Islamic Caliphate and Australia

In June 2014, the Islamic State (IS) declared an Islamic Caliphate spanning the area from Syria’s Aleppo governorate in the west, to Iraq’s province of Diyala in the east. The area under IS control now covers up to one third of Iraq, including the city of Mosul, which previously had a strong Christian community, but who have now mostly been forced to flee.  Read more...

Syria: losing ground in the fight to eradicate polio

Polio resurfaced in Syria late last year, and has now been found in Iraq as well, leading to concerns that this could reverse gains in international efforts to eradicate the virus. A side effect of the conflict in Syria, now running for over three years, is that for many children vaccinations have lapsed.  According to the BBC‘Vaccination rates in Syria fell from 91 per cent of children before the war to an estimated 68 per cent in 2012. But those are national figures. In rebel-held territory, where all the polio cases so far have occurred, immunisation levels are much lower’. In some cases, the Syrian Government has been accused of deliberately excluding rebel-held areas ... Read more...

Impact of drought in the Middle East

According to a Reuters report from 7 March, United Nations (UN) agencies and water and agricultural authorities are preparing to declare a drought in the Middle East. Aside from the immediate impact of drought on crops, water scarcity is already a problem in parts of the Middle East, and some of the most affected countries are already struggling to absorb hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees. Read more...