A Canadian flag is shown on the uniform of a member of the military in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian military is relieving a Manitoba army reservist of his duties and speeding up his release from the Armed Forces following allegations he is a member of a neo-Nazi group. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

A Canadian flag is shown on the uniform of a member of the military in Trenton, Ont., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. The Canadian military is relieving a Manitoba army reservist of his duties and speeding up his release from the Armed Forces following allegations he is a member of a neo-Nazi group. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

Killing of Iranian general sparks concerns for safety of Canadian troops

The U.S. has announced it’s sending nearly 3,000 more troops to the Mideast

The safety of Canadians in the Middle East is the government’s “paramount concern” following the death of a top Iranian general in an American airstrike, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said Friday.

Gen. Qassem Soleimani was the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, and was killed in Baghdad, Iraq, late Thursday. U.S. President Donald Trump accused Soleimani of plotting to kill Americans, and the death has prompted a vow of ”harsh retaliation” from Iran’s supreme leader.

Champagne said Canada remains in contact with its international partners.

“The safety and well-being of Canadians in Iraq and the region, including our troops and diplomats, is our paramount concern,” he said in a statement.

“We call on all sides to exercise restraint and pursue de-escalation.”

The airstrike was seen as a major escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran, though Trump insisted Friday he acted not to start a war but to stop one.

“We do not seek regime change, however the Iranian regime’s aggression in the region, including the use of proxy fighters to destabilize its neighbours, must end and it must end now,” he said.

Still, on Friday, the U.S. announced it was sending nearly 3,000 more troops to the Mideast, in the volatile aftermath of the killing, which Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended as “wholly lawful.” He told Fox News Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat against the U.S. and its interests in the region.

Pompeo called world leaders Friday to explain and defend Trump’s decision to order an airstrike that has sparked fears of an explosion of anti-American protests and further destabilizing of the Middle East.

The State Department said Pompeo had spoken Friday with top officials in Afghanistan, Britain, China, France, Germany and Pakistan.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said he spoke to his U.S. counterpart on Friday, and he is monitoring the situation.

“Our focus remains the safety of our troops and all Canadians in the region, and helping build a stable Iraq by preventing the re-emergence of Daesh,” he said, using the Arabic-language term for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIS.

Up to 850 Canadian Forces are authorized for deployment in the region, with 200 of those in Iraq as part of the NATO mission there. They assist mostly in “behind-the-wire” training missions of Iraqi forces in the wake of the global campaign to oust ISIS from the area.

The Department of National Defence wouldn’t comment on what, if any, measures were being taken to protect them in light of the potential threat.

But a former foreign-policy adviser to the Canadian government says there are legitimate fears.

Retaliation from the general’s supporters is likely after the three-day mourning period ordered by Iran’s supreme leader, who considered Soleimani a son, said Shuvaloy Majumdar, a senior fellow with the Macdonald-Laurier institute.

“We can expect … there will be a wide range of asymmetric attacks against principally American assets but also quite possibly western ones,” Majumdar said.

“So I think that as we enter this new chapter, this is going to be a very significant question for how Canadians and the Canadian government respond to the security of our soldiers but also the advancing of our interests.”

Majumdar advised the former Conservative government on foreign policy for years, including on the decision to list Soleimani’s organization, the Quds Force, as a terrorist entity.

He called the leader’s death “the most consequential strike that has happened against a terrorist leader since the beginning of the so-called war on terror.”

“He oversaw a state-backed, industrial-scale, mechanized terrorism outfit that since the late 1990s, since he led the Quds Force, has become the most sophisticated terrorism (organization) the world has ever known.”

The Quds Force is part of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, reporting to the country’s leader Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei. The Quds Force trains and equips foreign militias, carries out bombings and assassinations, and otherwise uses unconventional methods to expand Iran’s military and diplomatic influence. “Quds” is the Arabic and Persian name for Jerusalem.

The United States designated the Quds Force a terrorist organization in 2007. Canada followed suit in 2012.

“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,” Champagne’s statement on Friday said.

The same U.S. strike that killed Soleimani also killed a leader in an Iranian-backed militia in Iraq, a sometime Iraqi politician and U.S.-designated terrorist known as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Late Friday, Conservative foreign-affairs critic Erin O’Toole and defence critic James Bezan sent out a joint statement calling on the government to declare Iran’s whole Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, expanding the designation beyond the Quds Force.

“The IRGC’s Quds Force, led by Qassem Soleimani, was at the centre of IRGC operations and bear responsibility for violence, destruction and a destabilizing influence across the Middle East,” the statement said. It did not take a clear position on the strike that killed Soleimani.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh appeared to condemn the U.S. decision.

“The U.S.’s actions in Iran (sic) have brought us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East,” he said in a statement on Twitter.

“The prime minister needs to act quickly with other countries to de-escalate the situation and not be drawn into the path that President Trump is taking.”

What role Canada could play is unclear.

Under the Conservatives, Canada cut off diplomatic ties with Iran. There was a limited effort to resurrect them under the Liberal government, to little effect. The Liberals’ relationship with the Trump administration is mixed.

Still, Canada has a stake in the region and must work with other allies in similar positions, said Younes Zangiabadi, the research director for the Iranian-Canadian Congress.

Iran has been arming itself for decades, and while some may cheer Soleimani’s death, he was a hero to many Iranians and his killing will unite the country against the West and in favour of further action on the part of the Iranian regime, Zangiabadi said.

“This is not going to go lightly,” Zangiabadi said.

Stephanie Levitz, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Interior Health reported 79 new cases of COVID-19 and two new death in the region Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (Ben Hohenstatt/Juneau Empire)
79 new COVID-19 cases, two deaths reported in Interior Health

Both of Friday’s deaths were both recorded at long-term care homes

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

Clearwater Times editorial by Stephanie Hagenaars
Before we go patting ourselves on the back…

It’s been over a week since the United States Capitol was rushed… Continue reading

No one was injured when this 1989 Plymouth occupied by two young women burst into flames as they were travelling northbound on Highway 5 just after 2 a.m. This image originally appeared in the Jan. 23, 1996, issue of the Times.
25 Years Ago: No injuries in Highway 5 vehicle fire

Back in Time: A snapshot of history

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Sunnybank in Oliver. (Google Maps)
Sunnybank long-term care in Oliver reports third COVID-19 death

The facility currently has an outbreak with 35 cases attached to it

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

Most Read