ELIZABETH JACKSON: The Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott says
he's expecting a specific request from the American president for Australian
military involvement in a US-led assault on Islamic State militants.
It's anticipated Australia might be asked to contribute fighter jets and Special Forces for training, advice and intelligence gathering.
So how should Australians feel relaxed about the prospect of further military involvement in the Middle East?
Dr Mike McKinley, terrorism specialist at the ANU (Australian National University) says he thinks it's a mistake for Australia to be so willing to oblige the US.
MIKE MCKINLEY: It's never been such a good idea historically, and the particularities of the current situation leave a lot of questions unanswered.
Because what president Obama has basically promised is an open-ended commitment at least to bombing and training, and he has been citing Yemen and Somalia as success stories, but that doesn't really bare a close examination either.
The problem ultimately is that the group that everybody is going to be fighting against is an ideological group which is fighting a sort of insurgency, guerrilla warfare and a bit of conventional warfare, but the ideas behind it will not be destroyed by bombing, and also the allies which the United States wants in the region all have ulterior motives for wanting to join the fight.
So the question then is whether ultimately the situation could even get worse, rather than better.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: So are you suggesting that a military response by whichever country isn't going to work?
MIKE MCKINLEY: I think in the short term the attempt to degrade ISIL probably has to be undertaken by somebody.
In the longer term, the question about whether ISIS can be totally defeated and wrapped up, as president Obama seem to be promising, that's a much broader question because the ideas behind ISIL have been around for quite a while.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Is there any reason that you can see for Australia not to be involved in the initial military onslaught?
MIKE MCKINLEY: I think there are several actually.
One is that it's, so far as we can tell, the Prime Minister does not want to take this issue to Parliament, which I think is a travesty.
The second one is that just two weeks ago president Obama said he didn't have a strategy for dealing with ISIL.
It's not totally clear now that he has a strategy other than bombing and a bit of training and the training that the United States has conducted in the past in Afghanistan and in Iraq hasn't been successful.
The other thing is that Australia would be involved, even if it didn't send elements of the Australian air force, because Pine Gap will undoubtedly play a role because it's almost certain that the United States will be using quite a bit of drone warfare in both countries and Australia has been providing intelligence for that.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: Now, ASIO is expected for formally advise the Government today to raise Australia's terrorist threat level, yet there hasn't been any specific information about why this should be done.
Is it reasonable for Australians to assume a political motive, given that the Prime Minister is obviously keep to support the US militarily and also have its own counterterrorism laws embraced by the public?
MIKE MCKINLEY: It's one of those issues where I think there is a bit of both - people of a sceptical frame of mind would say that it could be a political decision but at the same time I think the director-general of ASIO, Mr Irvine, has put into the public realm some facts and figures which suggest that there are grounds for a feeling of uneasiness.
The figure I think of 50 people who have been jihadis overseas returning to Australia, the network that ASIO and the AFP claim they have discovered here in Australia, there is a sense here that unless they are acting totally capriciously, and I don't see any grounds for that, that there is a sense of uneasiness which justifies a raised level.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: But yet there doesn't seem to be any specific intelligence to that effect?
MIKE MCKINLEY: No, this is not a precise science.
The sense in which you perceive an enhanced threat is very much one that relies on judgement on the basis of evidence which is either incomplete or ambiguous and it's one of the areas where in democracies you like to trust the people making the decision.
On the other hand there is always that feeling that perhaps on the basis of some inaccuracies and deceits in the past, you have every right to be sceptical.
ELIZABETH JACKSON: That's Dr Mike McKinley, terrorism specialist at the ANU.