Canada has a big presence in Iraq, each as a part of the anti-ISIS Operation Affect and because the nation commanding NATO’s mission in Iraq.
A supply at Nationwide Defence HQ informed CBC Information there are most likely about 500 Canadian army personnel within the nation, which accounts for many of the Canadians now in Iraq in an official capability.
Canada’s army mission in Iraq started in August 2014, with the primary air strike towards the ISIS terror group going down in November of that yr.
That bombing mission, which was later expanded to incorporate ISIS targets in Syria, got here to an finish in March 2016.
However though the Trudeau authorities withdrew Canada’s CF-188 Hornets, because it had promised in its 2015 election marketing campaign, it felt compelled to enroll in different missions to switch it. ISIS terrorists launched lethal assaults in Paris 9 days after Trudeau assumed workplace, killing 131 folks.
Simply two months after Canada withdrew its fighter plane from Iraq, it despatched three CH-146 Griffon helicopters to northern Iraq to kind a Tactical Aviation Detachment.
Canadian Hercules, Polaris and Aurora plane continued to function in Iraq in airlift, air refuelling and aerial surveillance missions.
Numbers rise, then fall
Canada additionally tripled the variety of particular forces deployed to northern Iraq on an advise-and-assist mission. Their job was to assist Kurdish peshmerga forces get better terrain misplaced to ISIS throughout its crushing 2014 offensive, which noticed Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi and different necessary Iraqi cities fall beneath jihadist management.
Canadian Forces additionally arrange an intelligence centre and hospital in northern Iraq. In 2016, the Trudeau authorities oversaw a rise within the quantity of Canadian army personnel within the nation, from about 650 to about 830.
Since then, the numbers have declined considerably. The medical, air refuelling and aerial surveillance missions have ended. The tactical airlift (helicopter) mission in Erbil continues. The strategic airlift (Hercules) mission continues however is now based mostly out of Kuwait.
One officer at Nationwide Defence Headquarters informed CBC information that the precise variety of Canadian Forces members inside Iraq in the intervening time most likely would not exceed 500.
These with Operation Affect usually tend to be in Kurdish northern Iraq — effectively faraway from the protests and avenue battles which have convulsed Baghdad in latest weeks.
However the 580 members of NATO Mission Iraq, commanded by Canadian Maj.-Gen. Jennie Carignan for the reason that begin of December, are stationed a lot nearer to the disturbances in Baghdad and its satellite tv for pc cities Taji and Besmaya.
Canada has lengthy performed a number one function in that operation. Previous to Maj.-Gen. Carignan, the NATO coaching mission was led by one other Canadian: Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin. As many as 250 of the members of that NATO mission — virtually half its whole — are Canadians.
Friction with Baghdad
Though Canadian Forces are in Iraq on the invitation of the Iraqi authorities, tensions with that authorities have difficult the mission prior to now. A few of them contain the identical pro-Iranian militias that led the siege-like protest on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
All through 2015 and 2016, Canadian troopers labored carefully with Kurdish forces that answered to native Kurdish authorities, moderately than the central authorities in Baghdad.
So long as Iraq’s Shia-dominated authorities was combating for its survival — and wanted Kurdish assist to defeat ISIS — that state of affairs was tolerated.
However because the Kurds started to organize to carry a referendum on independence within the Fall of 2017, the connection with Baghdad soured.
By the tip of 2017, there have been armed clashes between Kurdish forces and pro-Tehran Shia militias.
These militias, organized from Shia mosques in 2014 as ISIS forces appeared poised to succeed in Baghdad, have been important to the Iraqi authorities counter-offensive that ultimately drove Islamic State out of the territory it had conquered in Iraq. However in addition they lent that conflict a extra sectarian character — and lots of militias have been led by Iraqi politicians with ties to the Islamic Republic of Iran.
These Well-liked Mobilization Forces (PMFs) have been hostile to the U.S. and NATO presence in Iraq.
A ‘No-PMFs’ coverage
Canadian trainers, who’ve needed to cut back their direct help to the Kurds beneath strain from Baghdad, are additionally cautious to not work with PMFs, in response to Chief of Defence Employees Gen. Jonathan Vance.
“It’s extremely clear that Iran is an actor. It is an occasion and, in some instances, a malign agent in Iraq,” Vance informed a parliamentary committee in December 2018.
“That mentioned, the PMF and Shia militia forces did assist with the destruction of Daesh (ISIS). We by no means labored with them, and I gave orders that we might be fully de-conflicted with something that they have been concerned with. We do not do any prepare, advise and help. We did no fireplace assist. We did nothing with these forces. That mentioned, it’s as much as the Authorities of Iraq, sir, to determine on its go-ahead relationship. It is less than us.
“We prepare, advise and help within the NATO mission, and within the present mission we’re in, in Erbil, we’re coping with vetted, accredited Iraqi safety forces. I need to guarantee you of that. These should not PMF forces. They don’t seem to be Shia militia. They’re bona fide, enrolled, recruited Iraqi safety forces.”
However the truth stays that the PMFs have huge energy in Iraq, and throughout the Baghdad authorities. The nation’s prime minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi, comes from a pro-Khomeini occasion that was shaped by Iraqi exiles in Tehran in 1982.
Furthermore, Iraq has taken a number of steps to deliver the PMFs throughout the fold of its lawful safety forces, granting PMF members wages and entry to authorities coaching services — at the same time as western allies have expressed the priority that the PMFs are coordinating actions with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps commanded (till his assassination by American air strike in a single day) by Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
Diplomatic skeleton crew
Canada does preserve an embassy in Baghdad’s Inexperienced Zone, beneath Ambassador Ulric Shannon, and there may be additionally a Canadian diplomatic workplace in Erbil within the Kurdish north of Iraq.
However the Baghdad embassy is a skeleton operation as a result of safety state of affairs and doesn’t present in-person consular providers to Canadian residents. Commerce issues are dealt with by the Canadian embassy in Amman, Jordan.
The embassy’s web site now warns Canadians to not attempt to go to it in particular person.
World Affairs Canada launched an up to date journey advisory on Friday, encouraging Canadians presently in Iraq to depart by industrial means if it is secure to take action.
“The safety state of affairs might worsen with little warning,” the advisory reads. “There’s an elevated risk of assaults towards Western pursuits and of terrorist assaults typically.”