Harper government unveils plans to extend Iraq mission and join coalition forces in Syria



Prime Minister Harper says Canada’s mission is to destroy ISIS and will remain as long as it takes

On March 24, Prime Minister Harper announced in the House of Commons the government will extend Canada’s mission in Iraq for another year and permit CF-18s to begin bombing ISIS in Syria.

The opposition parties have strongly objected to the plan and some even question its legality.

Approximately 600 Canadian Forces (CF) personnel, including 69 Special Forces soldiers, are engaged in Iraq bombing ISIS targets and providing training to Iraqi and Kurdish military units.
ISIS’s “territorial hold remains substantial, and its leadership and networking of wider jihadist forces has continued”, said Harper.

“ISIL has made it clear that it targets by name, Canada and Canadians” and is “far from an idle threat,” added Harper.

Harper said the CF will remain in the fight with coalition forces as long it takes to defeat the Islamic State and eliminate it as a threat.

“Our goal here is to deal with the threat to this country. We will deal with it as long as it is there. We will not stop dealing with it before that,” said Harper.

This represents a complete reversal from Harper’s original position on Syria. When the CF were given the green light to enter Iraq, Harper said the only way the CF would join coalition forces in Syria was if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gave Canada permission to.

The opposition alleges that Harper is possibly breaking international law by entering the territory of a sovereign country without permission.

Harper justified his backtracking by highlighting the fact that ISIS has largely taken refuge in Syria and is where the group is strongest.

“ISIL’s fighters and much of its heavier equipment are moving freely across the Iraqi border into Syria, in part for better protection against our airstrikes,” said Harper.

“In our view, ISIL must cease to have any safe haven in Syria.”

Harper said Canadian Forces could remain in both Iraq and Syria until March 30, 2016 at the latest, however, a precise date has yet to be determined. Although the mission will be extended, the government said under no circumstances will Canada commit boots on the ground.

“We must avoid, if we can, taking on ground combat responsibilities in this region,” said Harper.
Both the Liberals and the New Democrats quickly denounced Harper’s plans.

Mulcair repeated his position that this is not Canada’s fight and should return our soldiers home.
“The fact is, Canada has no place in this war,” said Mulcair.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau argued that the Conservatives plan to extend the mission into Syria has been rolled out “without clearly articulating the mission’s objectives”.

“The Conservatives are proposing an unfocused, unending mission or the Canadian Forces that we cannot support,” said Trudeau.

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