Australia is considering supporting US air strikes against the Islamic State (IS).
While it said it would not consider putting combat troops on the ground, the office of the prime minister, Tony Abbott said that he would consider any request from the US “based on whether there is an achievable overall humanitarian purpose and a clear and proportionate role for Australia as well as on a careful assessment of the risks”.
The news emerged after the New York Times reported that US president, Barack Obama is mobilising a large coalition of allies to prepare for potential military action in Syria and expanding air strikes in Iraq.
A spokeswoman for Tony Abbot said: “The government has been transparent about our intentions in Iraq.
“To date, our focus has been doing what we can to avert an even greater humanitarian tragedy in Iraq, including by air-dropping food and water to many thousands of desperate people on Mount Sinjar.
“The prime minister has made it clear that Australia is ready to continue our humanitarian involvement in Iraq. Our response to any request from the United States, or other close allies and partners, will be based on whether there is an achievable overall humanitarian purpose and a clear and proportionate role for Australia as well as on a careful assessment of the risks.
“Australia is not considering putting combat forces on the ground; nor, for that matter, is the United States.”
Heval Syan, a representative of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) in Iraq, wrote to the foreign minister, Julie Bishop, appealing for help. He wrote: “Deliveries of the military equipment and ammunitions are urgently needed for Peshmerga to achieve gains on the ground,” said the letter from Syan.
“It is now time for the international community especially the Australian government to step forward urgently and provide the KRG with humanitarian assistance and military support, particularly equipment and air support.”