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20 hrs ·
Liberal, NDP MPs leak classified defence briefing notes
Canada has been at war against jihadists for years now, but you'd never know it, after what happened today.
PM Harper held a confidential meeting about the war for opposition MPs from the Liberals and NDP, and briefed them on state secrets.
What happened? One of those classified briefing notes was leaked to the Ottawa Citizen.
What's even crazier is that Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray and NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar talked about this meeting on the record with their friends in the Media Party.
How can we trust the Liberals and NDP and possibly take them seriously on matters of national defence and security?
Canadian diplomats have quietly warned members of Parliament that the “best weapon” for fighting the Islamic State is diplomacy and finding a “political solution” — a message that appears to run counter to the Conservative government’s emphasis on military action.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced earlier this week that the government would extend its military mission against ISIL to the end of March 2016, and authorize Canadian air strikes in Syria as well as Iraq. He said the objective was to “degrade” ISIL so it can no longer launch attacks, either in the region or abroad.
But a memo provided to opposition MPs by the Department of Foreign Affairs during a closed-door briefing Wednesday says “the best weapon against ISIL is good governance and inclusiveness.” The memo adds that a “political solution is critical to degrading ISIL and stabilizing the Iraqi state.”
“Military operations are a key component in defeating ISIL, but ultimately only political reconciliation and government inclusiveness will determine Iraq’s stability and Iraq’s future,” says the memo, which was obtained by the Citizen.
“Further, a lasting resolution to the crisis requires a supportive regional environment, where Iraq’s neighbours support these goals of reconciliation and inclusiveness.”
The briefing was organized by the government, and included presentations by Mark Gwozdecky, director general of Foreign Affairs’ Middle East bureau, and Maj.-Gen. Michael Hood, whose unit provides strategic direction for the military.
The memo reflects concerns raised by analysts and regional experts, who say ISIL has been able to draw strength from disenfranchised Sunni Muslims. It also reflects different countries in the region, such as Iran, vying to come out ahead when the dust settles.
For example, it notes the Iraqi government has been relying on Iranian-backed Shiite militias in its fight against ISIL, and worries what will happen if those militias are able to penetrate deep into ISIL territory, which is predominantly occupied by Sunni Muslims.
The Foreign Affairs memo says Canada has developed “a comprehensive program” to help Iraq, but offers few details. Canada has given $102 million to Iraq since January 2014, mostly in emergency aid such as food and shelter, the memo says. It has also provided $800 million since 2011 for the crisis in Syria.
The memo, which goes on to describe the military mission as “one of the key elements of our strategy,” does note some successes. For example, it says the Iraqi government has adopted and started to act on a four-year plan to strengthen the economy, tackle corruption and be more inclusive.
Yet the memo doesn’t provide any specific explanation for what Canada is doing to address those and other issues such as ethnic and cultural divisions.
Government ministers have talked about the need for more than just military action in the region, including humanitarian aid and diplomacy. But the emphasis has largely been on the need to resist ISIL with force, while there has been little to no discussion of reconciliation.
In opening debate on expanding the war into Syria on Thursday, Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson told the House of Commons that Canada “is pursuing a multi-faceted approach in the face of this crisis.”
Nicholson said Canada has “heightened its engagement with regional leaders,” noting he recently met with allies from the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Iraq, as well as officials from the Kurdish regional government, “and we’ll continue to work closely with them.”
“But the fact remains that in responding to this threat, Canada stands at a crossroads of history,” Nicholson added. “We can either stand on the sidelines, or take real and measured actions.”
In his own speech, Defence Minister Jason Kenney described ISIL as “the enemy,” and said ISIL has “explicitly declared war on Canada, has called on its supporters to kill Canadians wherever they find them.”
University of Waterloo Middle East expert Bessma Momani said the memo’s focus on political reconciliation speaks to the very real ethnic and political divisions that have contributed to conflict in the region for more than a decade, and which supported ISIL’s rise to power.
Momani said the Conservative government has been emphasizing “hard tools” when it comes to fighting ISIL while giving short shrift to the non-military actions that will be needed to bring lasting peace to the region.
“Does every Sunni family that pledges allegiance to ISIL to save their daughters from rape count as an ISIL member?” she asked. “And as horrible as ISIL is to our eyes, the Assad regime and Shia-backed militias are just as bad, if not worse.
“I have no problem with bombing the hell out of ISIL, but what comes after? The Harper government likes moral clarity, but in this situation, that doesn’t exist. And short-term liberation of ISIL territory is actually a long-term problem.”
Liberal defence critic Joyce Murray said she believed Canadian diplomats were doing what they could to address the issues raised in the memo, but suggested the government wasn’t highlighting the work because it didn’t fit with the Conservatives’ “fear-based” narrative about the war.
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the Conservative government’s approach to date suggests it “fails to understand the complexity of the problem.”
“The military strategy they’ve put forward is not sufficient when it comes to an overall plan in the region,” he said. “While they say what has to happen, there’s no evidence that there’s a plan.”
I can think of two people who likely won't be invited back.
The Conservatives didn't have to invite the other parties, to a confidential meeting, but did.
There is a certain amount of trust that is expected, even if unspoken.
The NDP and Liberals have shown they can't be trusted to help protect Canadians, or our deployed service people.
Their only goal is points in the polls and smearing the Conservatives.