Canadaʼs best roles in battling ISIS

November 18, 2015   ·   0 Comments

IT MUST STRIKE SOME as ironic that the Paris massacres took place just days after Canada’s new federal government confirmed its withdrawal from the multinational bombing of ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria.

Sure, the withdrawal was a plank in the Liberal party’s platform, as was the admission of 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end, a plank that some may see as equally inappropriate in wake of the fact that one of the ISIS terrorists reached France in the guise of a Syrian refugee.

However, there’s no doubt that ISIS must be defeated, and that bombing alone won’t do the job and will produce civilian casualties.

Nor should there be any doubt that Canada isn’t immune from the threats posed by ISIS, or of the need to equip our law enforcement agencies with the tools they require to combat terrorism.

What does remain to be seen is just what contributions Canada should make to the international effort to rid the world of the ISIS scourge.

As we see it, one move that should be applauded is the government’s announced intention to send more troops to train Kurd- ish rebels in Iraq and Syria, a move we think should be accompanied by major donations of equipment and supplies, as well as support for creation of Kurdish-dominated provinces in Turkey, Iraq and Syria.

Something else Canada should be able to do is return to our tradition as a peace-keeper and a mediator. In particular, we would see great value in our new government taking a lead in promoting better relations between our two great neighbours to the north and south, Russia and the United States.

Our hunch is that in the wake of the apparent ISIS bombing of a Russian passenger plane over the Sinai desert and last Friday’s massacres, Russian President Vladimir Putin will be open to much closer co-operation with the U.S.

The main difference between the two powers’ approach to the Syrian civil war is Russia’s historic support of the current government despite the regime’s horrendous conduct during the war, which has apparently included using gas against civilian populations.

However, in a recent interview shown on 60 Minutes, Mr. Putin said Russia’s continued support for the regime is based on the fact it is the government and as such can provide the bases for an expanded anti-ISIS bombing campaign.

If the U.S. and Russia joined forces for the first time since the Second World War, they could take a lead in bringing the various warring factions in Syria together in a bid to produce a ceasefire as the first step toward creating a new federation, perhaps with semi-autonomous regions reflecting the presence of the country’s many minorities.

According to Wikipedia, before the outbreak of the civil war in 2011, Syria’s population of about 23 million was 70-74% Sunni Muslim (59-60% Arabs, 9-11% Kurds and 2-3% Turkmen). Other Muslims (including Alawites 10%, Shia and Ismaili) made up 16% of the population, Druse 2-3%, various Christian denominations 10-12%, and there were a few Jewish communities in Aleppo and Damascus.

Although nominally a democracy with a constitution suggesting that the ballot box is supreme, the president since July 2000, Bashar al-Assad, is the son of his predecessor, Hafiz al-Assad, and continues in office despite a constitutional provision limiting him to two seven-year terms. Accordingly, it shouldn’t be all that difficult to arrange free, internationally supervised elections during a ceasefire, although there will be little doubt that the long-ruling Ba’ath Party will wind up winning and seeing its candidate win the presidency.

In the circumstances, perhaps the main factor to be considered by Canada in selecting appropriate refugees is the applicants’ long- term wishes. Do they really see Canada as the place for themselves in the long run, or would they hope to one day return to their homeland if it were free from both warfare and sectarian strife?

One thing that should be obvious is that with about 4 million of them now living in refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan, it shouldn’t be difficult for our immigration officials to find 25,000 who see Canada as a great place for both themselves and their descendants.

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