Turnbull’s Washington Visit Reinforces Australia’s U.S. Ties

Turnbull’s Washington Visit Reinforces Australia’s U.S. Ties
President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the White House, Washington, Jan. 19, 2016 (AP photo by Carolyn Kaster).

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made his first visit to Washington as prime minister this week, where he met with President Barack Obama and gave a national security speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

In his speech at CSIS, Turnbull discussed the Syrian civil war and expressed confidence in the fight against the self-proclaimed Islamic State, which he referred to as ISIL. The coalition against the Islamic State “will win,” he said, “by targeting ISIL militarily, using local ground forces supported by coalition air power, weapons and training; curbing ISIL finances; stopping foreign fighter flows; and pursuing political resolution and reconciliation in Syria and Iraq.”

Australia has been a key security partner of the U.S. and was one of the first countries to offer support after the Iraqi city of Mosul fell to the Islamic State in 2014. But while Turnbull has not drastically altered Australia’s Middle East policy, he has refocused it away from Syria, as Rodger Shanahan explained in a briefing for WPR in October:

Australia is still a minor player in the Syrian crisis, where the complexity of the conflict has made it difficult for the government to formulate a coherent position that makes its goals clear to the Australian public. It is, however, more engaged in Iraq, reflecting both a sense of moral obligation as a result of Australia’s participation in the 2003 invasion, as well as the domestic interest in doing something about the advances made by the Islamic State.

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