Canada to send F-18s to fight ISIL in Iraq
Oct. 3, 2014, Ottawa - Canada is poised to go to war in Iraq, as Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced plans in Parliament Friday to send CF-18 fighter jets for up to six months to battle Islamic extremists.
October 3, 2014 By The Ottawa Citizen
But the decision — to be debated and voted on by Members of Parliament next Monday — is shaping up to be a politically explosive one as the country heads towards an election in 2015. Both the New Democrats and Liberals on Friday quickly rejected Harper’s rationale for going to war and indicated they will oppose the government’s plan when it comes to a vote in the House of Commons next week.
In his address to the Commons, Harper said his military plan will not include on-the-ground combat by Canadian soldiers and that he is trying to prevent this country from getting sucked into a “prolonged quagmire” in the region. Under a motion to be debated by MPs, the mission will last up to six months.
Harper said Canada is obliged to take action against ISIL.
“In a democracy, especially one approaching an election, there is rarely political upside in supporting any kind of military action, and little political risk in opposing it,” said Harper, insisting Canada won’t ask other countries to bear the military burden against ISIL.
“Throughout our history, that has never been the Canadian way.”
Under the government’s plan, Canada will provide “air strike capability” to help the coalition bomb ISIL. Government sources say that will involve up to six CF-18 jets.
In addition, Harper announced Canada plans to send two Aurora surveillance aircraft and and one air-to-air refuelling aircraft as part of the mission – which, until now, had only involved non-combat Canadian military advisers.
In his speech to MPs Harper stressed that the measures are part of a “counter-terrorism” plan to defeat ISIL, which has been growing in strength in Iraq and Syria and recent months.
He also outlined Canada’s plans for humanitarian measures to assist the thousands of refugees in the region.
He said ISIL has established control over a vast territory in Iraq and Syria “from which it intends to launch a terrorist jihad, not merely against the region, but on a global basis.”
“Indeed, it has specifically targeted Canada and Canadians,” said Harper.
“ISIL’s words are matched by its actions. In the territory ISIL has occupied, It has conducted a campaign of unspeakable atrocities against the most innocent of people. It has tortured and beheaded children. It has raped and sold women into slavery.”
After the prime minister’s address, both NDP leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau spoke to the Commons. They both issued dire warnings about what Canada is getting itself into, and both noted that Harper, when he was opposition leader in 2003, wanted Canada to join the U.S. in its war against Iraq.
“All of the horrors unfolding before our eyes are the result of that failed mission,” said Mulcair.
“Will Canada be stuck a decade from now mired in a war we wisely avoided entering a decade ago?”
Mulcair said Harper has failed to answer some key questions such as the cost of the combat mission, and how Canada will extricate itself from the fray in six months.
“Canada, for our part, should not rush into this war.”
“Canada’s first contribution should be to use every diplomatic, humanitarian and financial resource at our disposal to respond to the overwhelming human tragedy unfolding on the ground and strengthen political institutions in both those countries.”
Trudeau, who had supported the non-combat mission to Iraq that began nearly a month ago, said his party also remains unconvinced that a combat mission is now the best thing for Canada to do in the region. He said this country should be focusing on other non-combat roles such as military training, strategic airlift, medical support and humanitarian aid.
He said Harper has not been “upfront” with Canadians on his military plans.
“Moralistic rhetoric is being used to justify more than just airstrikes,” said Trudeau. “It is an attempt to justify a war.”
He said the members of the military who will be in combat deserve clear answers from the government, which they are not getting now.
“The Liberal party cannot and will not support this prime minister’s motion to go to war in Iraq.”
Under the government motion to be debated Monday, MPs are asked to support the government’s decision “to contribute Canadian military assets to the fight against ISIL, and terrorists allied with ISIL, including air strike capability for a period of up to six months.”
The motion also says that Canada “will not deploy troops in ground combat operations.”
MPs are expected to debate, and vote on, the motion next Monday.
The motion says that ISIL poses a “clear and direct threat” to people in the Iraqi region — “including members of vulnerable religious and ethnic minority groups who have been subjected to a sustained campaign of brutal sexual violence, murder, and barbaric intimidation by ISIL.”
It also says that “unless confronted with strong and direct force, the threat ISIL poses to international peace and security, including to Canadian communities, will continue to grow.”
In his speech to the Commons, Harper said the “objectives” of Canada’s military intervention are as follows: “We intend to significantly degrade the capabilities of ISIL Specifically, its ability either to engage in military movements of scale or to operate bases in the open.”
“While ISIL will not be eliminated, the risks presented from the territory in which it operates will be significantly reduced…To those of other, similar, ungoverned spaces in the broader region.”
Harper said that the military will only strike ISIL where Canada has the “clear support” of the government of the country where they are located. That support now exists in Iraq.
Harper said that if the Syrian government also provides permission for airstrikes, Canada will extend its mission against ISIL into that country also.
The prime minister said that his government is also “seized” with guarding against “broader” terrorist threats against Canada — including from “Canadian foreign fighters” who return home from abroad to commit terrorist acts.
He said the government will soon introduce “additional measures to strengthen the ability of our security services to monitor aspiring terrorists.”
That will include measures to “where possible, prevent their return to Canada, or to, where that is not possible, give greater tools to be able to charge and prosecute.”
“Left unchecked, this terrorist threat can only grow and grow quickly. As a government, we know our ultimate responsibility is to protect Canadians, and to defend our citizens from those who would do harm to us and to our families.”