As Australia refocuses its foreign and defence policies on its near abroad, it must be careful not to allow ties with the Middle East to fall into neglect. This analysis examines the impact that two decades of security engagement in the Middle East have had on Australia’s relations with the region and argues that while Canberra may have largely ended the country’s military commitments in the Middle East, the region is more important in more ways to Australia than it was before that commitment got underway. An expanded Australian diplomatic footprint, growing economic ties, and more extensive people-to-people links with the Middle East means that the region and its security risks have greater domestic relevance for Australia than they did two decades ago.

Key findings:

  • Despite ending its 20-year military operations in the Middle East, Australia’s diplomatic, defence, and economic equities in the region are now more substantial than when the global war on terror was declared in 2001.
  • Due to migration patterns, any future conflict or other form of humanitarian crisis in the Middle East is likely to generate proportionally greater domestic political repercussions in Australia than would have been the case prior to 2001.
  • Canberra must view its foreign policy in the region not simply or solely through the prism of its alliance with the United States. The Middle East will remain of direct and growing consequence to Australia’s national interests.
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