Canada's foreign affairs minister calls for 'restraint' after U.S. kills Iranian general
OTTAWA -- Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne is calling on all sides to "exercise restraint and pursue de-escalation" following a targeted U.S. airstrike in Baghdad, Iraq that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
"Our goal is and remains a united and stable Iraq," Champagne said in a press release.
"Canada is in contact with our international partners. The safety and well-being of Canadians in Iraq and the region, including our troops and diplomats, is our paramount concern."
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed to CTVNews.ca in an email that the prime minister has been "closely briefed and engaged on the situation in Iraq." They added that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has spoken to senior officials, cabinet ministers and the U.S. Ambassador about the issue.
Canada is currently commanding a NATO mission in Iraq, which is a "non-combat, advisory and training" mission with the purpose of 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.
The United States called for any American citizens in Iraq to leave "immediately," following the airstrike at Baghdad's international airport.
Soleimani was the head of Iran's Quds Force, which is an elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary guards, and reported directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He was widely seen as the second most powerful figure in the country.
"Canada has long been concerned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' Qods Force, led by Qasem Soleimani, whose aggressive actions have had a destabilizing effect in the region and beyond," Champagne said in the release.
The move is being widely seen as a major escalation in the ongoing tensions between the United States and Iran, which had been brewing since U.S. President Donald Trump's 2018 withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal and the imposition of crippling sanctions on Iran.
Since the airstrike, Iran has vowed "harsh retaliation" against the U.S. for what Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called a "heinous crime."
Bessma Momani, a senior fellow with the Centre for International Governance and Innovation, told CTV News Channel that the move was a "significant escalation of Iran-U.S. war."
She explained in her Friday morning interview that Soleimani was a "folk hero" to Iranian hardliners and Conservative regime supporters, many of whom surround the Iran's Supreme Leader and his ayatollahs.
"There is going to be, I think, a wrath of fury that is going to be now unleashed," Momani said.
She said there's a dangerous combination at work in this brewing conflict, with a U.S. president who feels "cornered" by domestic issues and an Iranian regime which has developed both proxy forces and a skill for hitting soft targets that together has given Iran "the plausible deniability to basically be as ruthless as possible without facing consequences."
"All of that put together means that many people in the Middle East in particular feel very much in [an] unsafe moment," Momani said.
Momani warned that despite U.S. President Donald Trump's assertion the strike was pre-emptive, Soleimani's killing will have a snowball effect in the region that "simply won't, frankly, justify this in the long term."
"I think history will not show kindly on this act [of] foreign policy decision-making," Momani said.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh also weighed in on the strike in a tweet Friday morning, expressing his concern about the move.
"The US' actions in Iran have brought us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East," Singh wrote in the tweet.
"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."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to comment on the issue.
With files from The Associated Press.