Andrew Probyn and Andrew Greene — ABC Australia July 26, 2018
Senior figures in the Turnbull Government have told the ABC they believe the United States is prepared to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, perhaps as early as next month, and that Australia is poised to help identify possible targets.
It comes amid intense sabre-rattling by US President Donald Trump and his Iranian counterpart Hassan Rouhani.
The ABC has been told Australian defence facilities would likely play a role in identifying targets in Iran, as would British intelligence agencies.
But a senior security source emphasised there was a big difference between providing accurate intelligence and analysis on Iran’s facilities and being part of a “kinetic” mission.
“Developing a picture is very different to actually participating in a strike,” the source said.
“Providing intelligence and understanding as to what is happening on the ground so that the Government and allied governments are fully informed to make decisions is different to active targeting.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said this morning he had no reason to believe the US was preparing for a military confrontation.
“President Trump has made his views very clear to the whole world, but this story … has not benefited from any consultation with me, the Foreign Minister, the Defence Minister or the Chief of the Defence Force,” he said.
The top-secret Pine Gap joint defence facility in the Northern Territory is considered crucial among the so-called “Five Eyes” intelligence partners — the US, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand — for its role in directing American spy satellites.
Analysts from the little-known spy agency Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation would also be expected to play a part.
Canada would be unlikely to play a role in any military action in Iran, nor would the smallest Five Eyes security partner New Zealand, sources said.
Iran is a signatory to international agreements such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty and is not known to currently possess any weapons of mass destruction, but Mr Rouhani has recently boasted his nation’s nuclear industry is advancing at a fast pace.
Last month Iran’s nuclear chief opened a new nuclear enrichment facility that he said would comply with the nuclear deal Tehran signed with world powers in 2015.
Any US-led strike on Iranian targets would be fraught for a region bristling with tensions. Israel would have reason to be anxious about retaliation, given Iran rejects Israel’s right to exist.
That said, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in April invoked the so-called “Begin Doctrine“ that calls on the Jewish state to ensure nations hostile to Israel be prevented from developing a nuclear weapons capability.
“Israel will not allow regimes that seek our annihilation to acquire nuclear weapons,” Mr Netanyahu said.
An Australian Government source said when it came to Iran, Australia relied on intelligence sourced from its Five Eyes partners, not Israel.
Government split on whether Trump’s tweets are real threats
While some in the Turnbull Government firmly believe Mr Trump is prepared to use military force against Iran, others maintain it might be more bluster, given the consequence of conflict with Tehran might include unpredictable, dangerous responses in the Middle East.
Earlier this week, Mr Trump fired off an all-caps tweet directed at the Iranian President, seemingly warning of war:
To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 23, 2018