Canada Steps in to Back Kurdish War Effort in Iraq

Canada Steps in to Back Kurdish War Effort in Iraq

MONTREAL, Canada – Canada, which opted out of the US-led coalition that invaded Iraq in 2003, has joined in a rally started by the US, France and Britain to support the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in their war against the Islamic State (IS/ISIS/ISIL).

Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday he is committing two cargo planes to move military supplies into northern Iraq as part of the international effort to bolster Kurdish forces in the embattled region.

“This support, which will be provided in close co-ordination with our allies, will enable Kurdish forces to provide effective protection to Iraqis faced with the barbarous attacks of ISIL,” Harper said in a statement.

Since US President Barack Obama authorized air strikes more than a week ago, France announced on Wednesday it is sending arms to the Peshmerga to fulfill an urgent need, and Britain has stepped up its role in northern Iraq, mainly to help with the refugees.

A Canadian CC-177 Globemaster and a CC-130J Hercules transport are to begin flying arms provided by other allies to Erbil. The flights, which include approximately 30 Canadian Forces personnel, will continue as long as there is equipment and supplies to send.

The effort seems to indicate that Canada has departed from its former policy of non-engagement in the Iraq war since 2003. Harper is taking Canada’s involvement in Iraq a step further, after Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird endorsed the US air strikes.

“Canada supports all efforts, including United States supply drops and air strikes, to protect civilians from ISIS terrorists. We continue to stand with those who support the Iraqi people, including the Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers who are bravely fighting this brutal terrorism,” Baird said in a statement.

In addition to helping with transport, the Canadian government has committed 5 million Canadian dollars in humanitarian aid to Iraq. That was announced two days after Yezidi-Canadians rallied on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, the capital of Canada, calling on the government to intervene and help.

Harper said the situation in Iraq will be closely monitored and further assistance may be provided in the future.

Canada had re-engaged in Iraq since April 2013, after 25 years of absence, with the opening of a diplomatic mission in Baghdad. The ‘’historic’’ opening was an important milestone in relations with Iraq, which Canada sees as an emerging regional partner.

Earlier this year, Canada opened a new trade office in Erbil to foster trade with Iraq, Canada’s largest two-way trading partner in the Middle East.

Harper expressed support to the new leadership in Iraq, hoping that the new Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi can rally the country’s factions behind him.

“We call on Iraq’s leadership to take immediate steps to counter ISIL and the terrorists that operate under that banner,” Harper said in a statement. “We stand ready to support a new Iraqi government that addresses the needs of all Iraqis, regardless of ethnic origin or religious belief.”