• Blog
  • January 13th, 2016

More useful role for Canada than air strikes says RI President




The Prime Minister of Canada must live up to the promise he made during the election campaign, and which he included in the mandate letter to his Minister of Defence, and forthwith end Canadian air strikes in Iraq and Syria.

Despite this unequivocal commitment, reiterated by the PM to the President of the United States in their first conversation after the election, Canada continues to engage in air strikes and, unbelievably, even increased the tempo over the Christmas holiday period.

Since the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris in November, there has been an incessant drumbeat in the media that Canada should reverse its decision to end air strikes, as if the decision was based on a misunderstanding of the threat posed by Islamic State, rather than on a determination that Canada could play a more useful role in other ways.

RI President Peggy Mason wrote about a more effective role for Canada in an article for the Canadian International Council on December 11th, 2015. In light of the continued Canadian bombing, we are reposting that article below.


Bombing and training are both problematic

The United States alone can easily handle all militarily useful airstrike targets against ISIS. Participation by others is therefore symbolic and token at best. While in the case of Arab states, this might at least have been useful — in that it would weaken the idea that this is a war between the West and Islam — those coalition members have abandoned their bombing in Iraq and Syria in favour of decimating the already utterly impoverished country of Yemen.

But bombing even of the token variety has consequences, most notably collateral damage in the form of death and injury to innocent civilians, which in turn leads to yet more violent jihadists, seeking revenge.

Since a war cannot be won through bombing but only through the actions of ground forces, in theory at least training of local Iraqi and Syrian forces should be a more productive role for Canada. In practice, however, problems abound. The Americans to date have spent about US$500 million on training local, so-called moderate Syrian fighters with shockingly abysmal results: namely a total of four or five fighters trained and with countless American-supplied weapons ending up in extremist hands in the process.

Training of Kurdish Peshmerga, which Canada is already doing, may yield better fighters but not a stronger Iraq, since what the Kurds have in mind is an independent Kurdistan, something about which our NATO ally, Turkey, has grave concerns. Then there are the disturbing allegations of grave human rights abuses by Kurdish forces including their refusal to allow non-Kurds to return to their villages, once the Peshmerga “liberate” them from ISIS.

And we have precious few Iraqi Sunnis to train since, in their stronghold of Anbar province, Sunni tribes have largely chosen what they see as the lesser of two evils, ISIS, over a corrupt and sectarian Iraqi government utilizing Iranian-backed Shia militias as its main fighting force against ISIS.

Bombing Islamic State and training local fighters is doing little to end the civil war in Syria. But without an end to that war, ISIS cannot be effectively contained. Canada, then, urgently needs to throw its support wholeheartedly behind the UN-facilitated peace negotiations which now involve all but the most hardline Syrian factions, and to participate actively in the Vienna process of the so-called Syrian Support Group, which finally includes virtually all of the external backers of the various warring factions, including Russia and Iran.


Image credit: Canadian Forces

Read More

Leave a Reply

Let’s make it clear to Saudi Arabia that bullying will not work

The RideauInstitute.ca  is on a short summer break, back next Friday 24 August. However, in the meantime, why not show your support to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for standing up to the Saudi Arabian bully boy, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman, by sending an email to: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at: pm@pm.gc.ca Foreign Minister Chrystia […]

Read More
View the Blog »

Prime Minister Trudeau, bold steps are needed on global nuclear disarmament

The 73rd anniversaries of the terrible atomic bombings of Hiroshima, on 6 August, and Nagasaki, on 9 August, have just ...

National Defence Committee calls for Canadian action on nuclear disarmament

Photo credit: wagingpeace.org (Setsuko Thurlow giving 2017 Nobel Peace Prize address) On 18 June 2018 the House of Commons Standing Committee ...