JOURNALIST Thanks for your time this morning Julie, joining us on Triple M’s Hot Breakfast.
What can you tell us about the situation on the ground in Iraq?
JULIE BISHOP Morning Mick, morning Luke.
Well this is a really deeply troubling development in Iraq. This Islamic terrorist group has captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. It’s been attacking other cities and key infrastructure like an oil refinery. This is a particularly brutal terrorist group. The Iraqi Government is seeking to mount an offensive.
I have spoken to our Ambassador in Baghdad Lyndall Sachs and she tells me that the feeling in Baghdad is tense but calm and overall the security situation throughout Iraq is very volatile and could deteriorate further with little warning.
JOURNALIST There’s suggestions that there was going to be an all out assault on Baghdad but now I think they’re targeting specific targets inside Iraq including people trying to sign up Shi’a soldiers to go towards Mosul. Can you confirm that?
JULIE BISHOP These stories are deeply worrying. We know that there was to be an offensive by the Iraqi Security Forces but information is rather sketchy. We only have a small team in Baghdad at present. We’re relying on working with likeminded countries including the United Kingdom and the United States who both have teams on the ground.
But the situation is very volatile. That’s why I have been advising Australians in Iraq to depart immediately by commercial means if it’s safe to do so. Commercial airlines are still operating, the international airport in Baghdad is still open, the airport in Mosul is of course closed, but the situation could change at very little notice.
JOURNALIST Julie, how likely that we’ll get some international involvement in this? And will the Australians look at getting on the ground in Iraq?
JULIE BISHOP Well at present the Government of Australia is supporting the Iraqi Government’s efforts to counter these terrorist attacks. Of course, this terrorist group is listed in Australia as a terrorist entity and we’ve been calling on Iraqi leaders to work together to address the situation.
We routinely talk to the United States when situations like this develop. There’s been no indication that the United States would like us to help and at this stage our focus is on protecting Australian citizens that are there and our interests in Iraq.
JOURNALIST Julie, tell us a bit about this group ISIS, my understanding is these guys are to the right of Al-Qaeda and they are very bad people.
JULIE BISHOP They are particularly violent, particularly brutal, they are listed as a terrorist organisation, it’s an offshoot of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. It seems that it’s now too extreme even for Al-Qaeda in its activities in Syria and there’s been a split between the two.
I’m deeply concerned about Australians who are seemingly attracted to the conflict in Syria, which of course is on the border of Iraq. They are joining with terrorist groups in Syria, jihadists, and then my concern is that they’ll become radicalised and return to Australia or to our region. This is the concern that I’ve been discussing with my counterpart Ministers in Indonesia, in other countries, in Europe, in Britain, the United States. So the situation in the Middle East impacts on our security as well.
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