Canada set to go to war with jihadists in Iraq

Canada is poised to join the international coalition launching air strikes on the Islamic State group in Iraq after Prime Minister Stephen Harper sought parliament`s support Friday. 

IANS| Updated: Oct 04, 2014, 06:14 AM IST

Canada: Canada is poised to join the international coalition launching air strikes on the Islamic State group in Iraq after Prime Minister Stephen Harper sought parliament`s support Friday. 

If lawmakers greenlight the action on Monday -- as expected -- it will be Canada`s first military expedition since Libya in 2011.

Harper said members of the House of Commons, where his Conservative Party enjoys a solid majority, would be asked to vote on the six-month "counter-terrorism" mission.

In his Commons address, Harper said fighter jets and air-to-air refueling aircraft would be sent to the region to strike targets within Iraq`s borders.

Six hundred aircrew and other personnel will be headed to the Middle East.

Harper said Canadian warplanes could also target the militant group in Syria, but only "with the clear support of the government of that country."

The prime minister also asked to extend the deployment of up to 69 special forces soldiers advising security forces fighting the Islamic State group in the northern part of Iraq.

There will be "no ground combat mission," Harper insisted.

In making a case for war, Harper said: "The threat ISIL (IS) represents is real, serious, and explicitly directed in part at our country."

"Left unchecked this terrorist threat can only grow."

Harper accused IS jihadists of having "conducted a campaign of unspeakable atrocities against the most innocent of people. 

"It tortured and beheaded children, raped and sold women into slavery, it slaughtered minorities, captured prisoners and innocent civilians whose only crime is being or thinking differently from ISIL," he said.

The Islamic State group gained international attention in August, when its fighters and those from other militant groups swept through the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, then overran swaths of provinces north and west of Baghdad.

Western governments fear IS could eventually strike overseas, but their biggest worry for now is its gains in Iraq and the likely eventual return home of foreign fighters.

US President Barack Obama last month outlined plans for a broad international coalition to defeat the group in Iraq and Syria.

The coalition, which includes Arab countries, intends to "significantly degrade the capabilities of ISIL, specifically its ability to engage in military movements of scale or to operate bases in the open," said Harper.

Canadian opposition leaders vowed to oppose the military mission, accusing the government of hiding details and openly worrying about "mission creep."

"The defeat of the insurgency in Iraq is a goal the United States has been trying without success to achieve since the wrongheaded invasion of 2003," said New Democratic Party leader Tom Mulcair.

"The prime minister insists that this mission in Iraq will not be allowed to become a quagmire. But isn`t that precisely what our American allies have been facing in Iraq for the last 10 years? 

"Will Canada be stuck a decade from now mired in a war we wisely avoided entering a decade ago?"