Canada didn't have details on planned U.S. strike that killed Soleimani: Sajjan
OTTAWA -- Canada's National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan says the United States did not provide Canada with the details of its targeted U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani - despite the fact that Canada, an ally, has troops in the region.
In an interview Monday with CTV's Power Play host Evan Solomon, Sajjan said Canada was aware of "threats" made against its personnel. He also said that the U.S. had also indicated it would "take action."
"We didn't have the exact information for the event that took place," said Sajjan.
Canada is currently commanding a NATO mission in Iraq, which is aimed at building sustainable Iraqi defence and security institutions, according to a press release from June 2019.
The release adds that "up to 250 Canadian Armed Forces members" are a part of the mission. There are also troops scattered throughout Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon as a part of the counter-Daesh (ISIS) mission Operation IMPACT.
Despite its presence in the region, Canada didn't get a heads up about the attack that killed Soleimani – but was told to expect action, Sajjan suggested.
Retired Maj.-Gen. David Fraser, who commanded a NATO mission in Afghanistan, said one of his biggest concerns regarding the strike was the fact that "Canada was not informed or asked about the engagement before it happened."
"As a result of that our NATO mission in the region has been suspended and that puts all the NATO troops led by Canadians under great risk," Fraser said.
The NATO mission is currently suspended and remains in limbo. However, Sajjan would not confirm whether Canadian troops will leave the region, despite the fact that the Iraqi parliament voted to expel U.S. troops.
"Our number one priority, still, is trying to get back into what we were doing there. But we also have to be realistic to see where we're at," said Sajjan.
"All this will be assessed. What we don't want to do is make knee-jerk reaction decisions that doesn't take everything into account."
Canadian troops in Iraq have been moved to secure bases, a senior government official confirmed to CTV News Monday.
Sajjan "supports action" aimed at deterring attacks on Canada, allies
While the Canadian government has not yet said whether it supports Soleimani's killing, Sajjan told Solomon that Canada does support strikes as acts of deterrence.
"We support action when it comes to preventing and deterring attacks on our people and our allies," said Sajjan.
U.S. President Donald Trump has maintained that the strike was conducted to ward off an "imminent" threat, something that would help clarify whether the strike was justified under international law. As it stands, a debate is raging about whether the strike that killed Soleimani was extrajudicial – or if it met legal threshold for the use of lethal force.
Still, Sajjan stopped short of saying whether he supports this specific attack.
"I can't litigate a decision made by the U.S," said Sajjan.
"When it comes to working as a coalition, we need to make sure that we send a very strong message of deterrence."
The defence minister said Canada is still working to gather all of the relevant information to decide how to move forward – and whether to continue the existing missions on the ground in the region.
"That's what we need to get back into – to find ways to de-escalate so we can get back to the work at hand," said Sajjan.
With files from CTV News' Kevin Gallagher