Scott Morrison has added Australia to what US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calls a “global coalition” against Iran. Australia will send a warship and a surveillance plane in what is nominally an effort to “protect shipping” in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. 

Australia is just the third country to join the US, alongside only the UK and Bahrain. Japan, France, Germany, Pakistan and South Korea are just some of the countries that have declined to participate.

In May and June a series of oil tankers were hit by mines or torpedoes in the area. Despite a lack of evidence the US blamed Iran. The Strait of Hormuz is significant to global capitalism. A third of the world’s liquefied natural gas and almost 20 per cent of global oil production passes through it.

Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said Australia’s contribution will be “modest, meaningful and time-limited”.  But it can hardly be what she called “de-escalating tension”. This are entirely a product of Donald Trump’s belligerent decision to tear up the Iran nuclear deal negotiated under Barack Obama and to demand Iran’s complete capitulation.  

Iran is the world’s seventh largest oil producing country and has the world’s fourth largest proven oil reserves. US sanctions, imposed last year, have hit exports and foreign earnings hard as part of Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran.

The sanctions have caused misery for ordinary Iranians. They have driven up the costs of basic foodstuffs and caused a shortage of medicines.

Australia’s military commitment is typical of the way the Australian ruling class backs its imperialist partner, the US. As The Guardian wrote, “For a fractional commitment of personnel and materiel, Australia can firmly demonstrate its commitment to the US alliance, and it can do so far from the Indo-Pacific, where a more aggressive posture might aggrieve a sensitive Beijing.” This is another small down-payment on its insurance policy with the US.

Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, Richard Marles, Labor’s Shadow on Defence, “quickly offered the Morrison government bipartisan support.” Once again, Australian backing for the US is enflaming conflict and making the world a more dangerous place.

By Tom Orsag

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