When the war is over: Australia’s ongoing interests in the Middle East
With Australia's security focus now firmly on the Pacific, it is easy to dismiss Australia's twenty-year military involvement in the Middle East as an aberration, or simply as a legacy function of our alliance with the United States. Yet Australia's direct connections and interests in the Middle East are much greater now than they were before the country committed military forces to the region. Canberra has a greater diplomatic presence, a military base, deeper economic interests and more significant people-to-people links in the Middle East than ever before. The evacuations by Australian troops from Lebanon in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2021, as well as the direct security threat to Australia posed by the rise of Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, show how we cannot insulate ourselves from the dynamics and instability of the region.
In a new Analysis paper, Lowy Institute Nonresident Fellow Rodger Shanahan argues that Australia's contemporary focus on the Pacific should not blind it to the fact that it has continuing interests in the Middle East. Rather, Canberra should seek to leverage its regional ties and ongoing influence in the Middle East to better effect — to create greater balance in Australian foreign policy.
The event commenced with opening remarks by His Excellency Abdulla al-Sabousi, Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates to Australia. Followed by an overview of the paper by Dr Shanahan and a Q&A with Dr Shanahan and Professor Karima Laachir, Director of the Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, moderated by Hervé Lemahieu, Director of Research at the Lowy Institute.