The safety and well-being of Canadians in Iraq and the region, including troops and diplomats, is of “paramount concern,“ the Foreign Affairs Minister said on Friday after a U.S. air strike killed a senior Iranian commander.
Canada is in contact with its international partners, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement, adding the government is calling on all sides to “exercise restraint.”
“Our goal is and remains a united and stable Iraq,” Mr. Champagne said.
Canada’s travel website on Iraq already advises against all travel there because of a volatile, unpredictable and potentially dangerous situation. It was updated on Friday to include information on the killing of the Iranian military commander.
“This attack has led to increased tensions in the region,” the website said. “The security situation could worsen with little warning. There is an increased threat of attacks against Western interests and of terrorist attacks in general.”
It advised Canadians to consider leaving by commercial means. The government, meanwhile, advises Canadians to exercise a high degree of caution in Iran because of concerns including the threat of terrorism.
The PMO said on Friday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been “closely briefed and engaged on the situation in Iraq,” and has spoken with officials such as the Chief of Defence Staff Jonathan Vance and the U.S. ambassador.
The killing of the senior Iranian general is perceived as a marked escalation in the conflict between the United States and Iran. Canada needs to monitor the situation very closely because a maximum of 850 members of the Canadian Armed Forces are approved to serve in an operation to train, advise, and assist the Iraqi security forces and to support NATO Mission Iraq. The mission’s purpose is to help prevent the resurgence of the Islamic State.
Iran has vowed to retaliate for the attack, and the United States announced on Friday it is sending more troops to the region.
French President Emmanuel Macron and Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke to each other about the situation and agreed to stay in contact.
A German government spokesperson warned that the situation is at a ”dangerous escalation point,” while Turkey said it is “deeply” worried about relations between the United States and Iran. Turning Iraq into a conflict zone would harm peace and stability in the entire region, the Turkish government added.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said his country has always recognized the threat posed by the Iranian force the general led, adding that further conflict ”is in none of our interests.”
Mr. Champagne similarly said on Friday that Canada has ”long been concerned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, led by Qassem Soleimani, whose aggressive actions have had a destabilizing effect in the region and beyond.”
Bessma Momani, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance and Innovation and Arab Gulf States Institute, said on Friday that Mr. Champagne’s statement is “as vague as it can be, to not upset our U.S. allies while trying not to condone American actions.”
She said many legal experts will say the U.S. action contravened international law. The general was responsible for many atrocities, she added, noting that Canada has to consider contradictory values and interests.
“You don’t want to tick off the Iranians, you don’t want to condone international legal contraventions and you still want to be supportive to our key ally,” she said.
Canada will need to watch the situation in Iraq closely, added Roland Paris, a professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa and a former foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trudeau.
“Our troops are there on a specific training mission, not to fight in a possible war between the U.S. and Iran or its proxies,” Mr. Paris told The Globe.
Canadian Major-General Jennie Carignan assumed leadership of NATO Mission Iraq at the end of November.
The government says the purpose of the mission is to help strengthen Iraqi security forces and military education institutions so they can prevent the return of Islamic State, which it defines as a terrorist organization that advocates radical interpretations of Islam.
It also says the mission includes up to several hundred trainers, advisers and support staff from allied countries and non-NATO partners, including Australia, Sweden and Finland.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said on Friday the actions of the United States have “brought us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East.”
Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole and national defence critic James Bezan issued a statement late Friday calling for Canada to list Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, adding the Liberals voted for the measure.
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