Australia is preparing to join forces with the US and its allies in an air campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, after an Australian jet shot down an Iranian drone in Syria on Tuesday.
Key points:Australian planes will carry out the air campaign with US forcesThe Australian Defence Force said the aircraft was “under attack” by IranIt is understood the aircraft, which was “in distress”, was destroyedThe attack came less than a month after the US Air Force downed a Syrian drone over the Syrian capital, Damascus.
Australian aircraft will fly with US and allied forces in the Syrian civil war, Australian Defence Minister David Johnston said.
“This is a major strategic decision for Australia and will enable us to take advantage of the opportunities that are available to us to assist our partners in their fight against ISIL,” he said.
Australia has previously carried out missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, but its involvement in Syria was not clear.
“The Australians have done a tremendous amount in the fight against Daesh [ISIL],” Defence Minister Johnston said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
“And I think that Australia and the Australian people will see a very positive outcome from this action.”
Mr Johnston said the Canberra airbase was in the vicinity of the Iranian border, and had been operating since last year.
“Iran is a strong ally of the Assad regime in Syria, and this was an action by Iran to put a strain on our relationship,” he told ABC radio.
“That is something that is clearly very, very concerning for us, and we will do everything we can to avoid that happening in the future.”
The Pentagon has said that the aircraft had been “under an imminent threat”.
“The aircraft was in distress,” Lt Col Chris Dutton, a spokesman for the US Central Command, said.
The Iranian drone was shot down on Tuesday, in the same area where Australian fighter jets are already based.
“We’ve been working closely with our coalition partners in the region to support their efforts against ISIL in Syria,” the spokesman said.ABC/wiresTopics:air-force,united-states,world-politics,united…