US Summons Australia to the Middle East, as Congress Approves AUKUS Bill

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US Congress passed the National Defence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2024, which authorises the transfer of three US Virginia class nuclear-powered submarines to Australia that, in turn, will serve to strengthen US posture in the Indo Pacific region.

The bill also facilitates Australia in the provision of maintenance to US submarines docked here, which, along with nuclear-propelled subs from the UK, will form “a rotational presence from as early as 2027 under Submarine Rotational Force West (SRF-West)”.

With the passing of this bill, it’s hard to see how our nation won’t unquestionably throw itself into a US-led war on China. In fact, the legislation also provides for the US to train Taiwan’s military forces, with Beijing’s claims over that self-governing island being the chief reason to enter into a conflict.

And in a sign that Washington too considers Australia to be the lucky country, the new law has established “a mechanism for the US to accept funds from Australia to lift the capacity of the submarine industrial base” to the tune of $3 billion, which will evidently hurry up the process.

The passing of the bill might also heighten the pressure that Washington began placing on Canberra the day prior to its passage, as the US then called upon Australia to send a warship over to the Middle Eastern Red Sea in response to Yemen’s Houthi rebels attacking trading vessels.

And the fact that Uncle Sam is now calling on its Indo Pacific deputy to join its ranks in a military sideshow developing in relation to Israel’s wholesale massacre upon the Palestinians of Gaza, straight after the Albanese government voted in favour of a ceasefire in the UN, is lost upon no one.

Pressured to join Mid East conflict

PM Anthony Albanese and his Canadian and New Zealand counterparts released a statement on Wednesday calling for a ceasefire in what’s officially termed the Israeli-Hamas war, even though it sees the Netanyahu government perpetrating genocide upon the 2.3 million Palestinians of Gaza.

Critics have not hesitated to publicly raise that federal Labor has only just come to this conclusion after one of the most technologically advanced militaries has for nine weeks now been slaughtering a walled-in population, reeling after a 16 year goods blockade, which has nowhere to flee.

However, this show of independent thought on the part of follow-the-leader Albanese has been short lived as Genocide Joe Biden has demanded an Australian warship be sent to assist with the expanding international taskforce in the Mid East, as a sign of tacit support for the Israeli state.

The request points to the fears that rather than any forthcoming ceasefire, a regionwide war might be on the cards. And it hearkens back to our nation having followed the US into eight foreign theatres of war since the conflict in Korea.

Renowned US whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg told filmmaker Marian Wilkinson in 1983’s Allies that our participation in Vietnam served to give US operations legitimacy, as it could then be perceived as a sort of UN coalition intervening, rather than empire denying a nation’s right to self-determination.

The Australian documentary further makes clear that this participation in the Vietnam War was expected so as to ensure the ongoing nature of our alliance with the US.

Acting PM Richard Marles has said the government is considering the request to send a ship, but it’s more so focused on the Indo Pacific. Although the Pentagon has warned that it’s the responsibility of the entire international community to ensure the safe passage of ships in the Red Sea region.

The Yemini rebels recently attacked three commercial ships early this month, as they were heading towards the Bab el-Mandeb Strait and onto the Red Sea, potentially heading for Israel. And this week saw the fighters fire a missile upon a Norwegian tanker in the strait.

The Houthis have effectively been at war with Israel since mid-October, as the militia then began firing missiles into the strait and towards the state of Israel in response to the genocide taking place in Gaza. And the group shot down a US drone last month.

So, it now seems that Australia could soon be at war with the Houthis rebels.

Hardwired into future war

Yesterday’s passing of the AUKUS bill not only facilitates the acquisition of the nuclear-free nation’s first nuclear-powered submarines and the US sharing its nuclear technologies with us, but one would expect that it places extra pressure on Albanese to join a Middle Eastern war.

“The US Congress has provided unprecedented support to Australia in passing the… Act, which will see the transfer of submarines and streamlined export control provisions, symbolising the strength of our alliance, and our shared commitment to the AUKUS partnership,” Marles said on Friday.

“We are on the precipice of historic reform that will transform our ability to effectively deter, innovate, and operate together,” the hawkish defence minister added in his 15 December statement.

The bill also provides for local contractors to train in US shipyards to develop a submarine industrial base, exempts us from US export controls, expedites decision-making on exports not exempt and it adds us to Title III of the US Defence Production Act, so we’re considered a domestic source.

Biden and Albanese agreed to the domestic source classification in May, as it will provide the US with access to deposits of crucial minerals, such as lithium, whilst Marles has also introduced a bill that removes trade barriers on military goods and technology exports to our fellow AUKUS powers.

Yet, despite Albanese having travelled to San Diego to launch the details of the AUKUS deal with his counterparts Joe Biden and UK prime minister Rishi Sunak in March, the deal wasn’t guaranteed as there was still opposition to it within congress.

So, the fading AUKUS submarine deal is now back in full technicolour.

Maintaining mass deaths

The United States was the only permanent member of the UN Security Council that voted down a resolution calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza on 9 December. And such resolutions, if passed, are legally binding.

The Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (APAN) released a statement on the following day condemning the actions of the US in vetoing the resolution, stating that the superpower had trashed Palestinian human rights in doing so.

The UN General Assembly went on to successfully pass a nonbinding resolution calling for a Gaza ceasefire on Tuesday. The 153 countries that voted in favour of an end to the conflict included Australia, which finally took a stand that didn’t align with the position of Washington.

Yet, Biden in calling on Australia to join it in confronting opposing forces has laid the path for our country to join US forces in the Middle East, and in turn, side with the Netanyahu government, which has so far killed close to 19,000 mainly civilian Palestinians.

Until this week, Australia has stood together with all the US vassal states in lining up behind the White House in support of Israel and it’s issued the official line that Tel Aviv has a right to defend itself, which is a crude twisting of the truth when that state is perpetrating multiple war crimes .

Indeed, Israel’s neocolonial Gaza landgrab via the act of ethnic cleansing, which is being carried out with genocidal intent, has reawakened the understanding that the settler colonial project taking place in Palestine has too occurred on this continent and continues on in more subtle ways.

So, for this nation to join the war at Biden’s bidding would further serve as evidence that a nation supposed to be on the brink of advancing the rights of First Nation’s people, in actuality remains a keen advocate of the western allied colonising project and its suppression of Indigenous peoples.

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Paul Gregoire

Paul Gregoire is a Sydney-based journalist and writer. He's the winner of the 2021 NSW Council for Civil Liberties Award For Excellence In Civil Liberties Journalism. Prior to Sydney Criminal Lawyers®, Paul wrote for VICE and was the news editor at Sydney’s City Hub.

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