Canada’s prime minister, Stephen Harper, announced on Tuesday that Canada will expand its airstrikes into Syria in order to further combat the Islamic State. So far the United States has been the only NATO country to carry out airstrikes within Syria, but Harper spoke in the House of Commons saying “In our view, ISIL must cease to have any safe haven in Syria.” ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) is another name for the Islamic State.
The House of Commons must vote on the airstrikes, however, the measure is expected to go through because Harper’s conservative party controls it. Harper noted in his speech that Canada recognizes Syria as the center of operations for the Islamic State and is the “so-called caliphate’s capital.” The Islamic State has been moving military equipment from Iraq into Syria to bolster defense against airstrikes.
In addition, Harper said he would not ask for the “express consent” of the Syrian government, instead choosing to work with the United States and other allies to carry out the mission. This is a direct change from what Harper had voiced previously, when he said that the country would attack “where — and only where — Canada has the clear support of the government of that country.”
The move has been controversial within Canada. New Democrat Party leader, Tom Mulcair, rebutted Harper after his speech, telling the Commons that the country is fighting a war it has no business fighting.
Some of the controversy stems from the death of a Canadian soldier last month in a friendly-fire incident by Kurdish fighters. Canadian soldiers have been helping Kurdish forces execute coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State. Citing these deaths, Mulcair accused Harper of deceiving Canadians “from the start.”
The initial six-month mission to fight against the Islamic State will expire in April, but if Harper’s request gets through a vote, the expansion of Canadian military force will extend into 2016. The extension would push the mission beyond elections this October, solidifying the execution of the plan.
So far the United States, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates have been executing airstrikes in Syria against the Islamic State.