Baird on Iraq deployment: 'Inaction is not an option'
Published Tuesday, September 9, 2014 1:33PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, September 9, 2014 1:38PM EDT
Canadian special forces are already on the ground in Iraq and more will be deployed to combat the threat of Islamic State, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says, because the risk of not acting is too high.
"What happens if we don't act? What happens if Canada does not do everything in its power to stop this barbarism?" Baird said as he answered questions at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development Tuesday.
"Will we be willing to look ourselves in the mirror in 10 years and ask if we have done enough?"he said.
Canada already has its special forces in Iraq, where the government says they are being welcomed by local forces.
While the government has not given timelines, or the specific number of Canadian Special Forces members who will ultimately be deployed there, a source told CTV's Mercedes Stephenson that the deployment will involve between 50 and 100 personnel. The government cannot give details about where the forces will be, but said they will be operating in northern Iraq.
Baird told the committee Tuesday, that the threat posed by Islamic State- the group accused of beheading and videotaping two U.S. journalists, as well as capturing cities, key infrastructure and "ruthlessly" murdering those who don't agree with their ideology- must be addressed.
"Let us not mince words. This terrorist organization is not only committing barbaric murders through the systemic killing of religious minorities, but represents a real and growing threat to civilization itself," Minister of National Defence Rob Nicholson said in his comments to the committee.
"This is unacceptable to Canadians and to this government. It is incumbent upon all nations who believe in democracy, religious freedom, freedom of expression and the rule of law to confront those who would threaten the innocent.
Baird and Nicholson both said this will not become a combat missioninvolving regular troops, and will be reviewed after 30 days to see if "we are actually making a difference."
Instead, Baird said the mission will have two goals – stopping Islamic State from advancing, and helping support Iraqi forces.
U.S. President Barack Obama will outline his plan for addressing the threat of Islamic State in a live address Wednesday evening.
Thomas Sanderson of the Center for Strategic and International Studies told CTV News Channel that Obama has significant support for taking action against Islamic State, through working with the local armed forces they have trainedthere. But if the U.S. starts to put boots on the ground, Sanderson expects oppositionwould grow.
According to Sanderson, there are approximately 3,000 citizens of NATO member nations fighting in Syria. Those nations are motivated to join U.S. efforts against Islamic State, he explained, because of fears foreign fighters will return from Syria and Iraq to commit acts of terrorismat home.
Baird told the committee Tuesday, there is no optionbut to act right now.
"In a situation like this there are no easy options, quick fixes and win wins," Baird told the committee. "It might seem easy to ignore as we go about our comfortable lives here in Canada. It might seem convenient to brush options off as leading to mission creep in the future, but the hard reality is, inaction is not an option."