Editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Friday March 27, 2015
WHEN Stephen Harper, Canada’s prime minister, sought parliament’s permission in October to supply troops and aircraft to the coalition fighting Islamic State (IS), he said that the mission would last six months and that Canada would not launch strikes within Syria without the support of that country’s government. On March 24th he altered both conditions, asking parliament to approve a longer mission and bombing of Syrian targets regardless of whether President Bashar Assad agreed. This is necessary, says the Conservative prime minister, because IS is at its strongest in Syria.
The proposal is likely to be popular in Canada, where two soldiers died in terrorist attacks last October. It did not persuade the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) or the centrist Liberals. Their leaders complained that the government is putting Canadians in harm’s way without a clear objective or exit strategy. Thomas Mulcair, the NDP’s leader, accused Mr Harper of appearing to join forces with Mr Assad, “a brutal dictator and war criminal”, even though the bombing would happen without the Syrian leader’s approval. By attacking IS in Syria, Canada will be helping Mr Assad in his fight against that group and others in the country’s civil war. Apart from the United States, no NATO member has bombed targets inside Syria, although Jordan and the United Arab Emirates have done so.
Mr Harper can shrug off such objections, at least for now. His Conservatives have a majority in both houses of parliament. Fighting terrorists enhances the Conservatives’ tough-guy image and distracts from the current weakness of the economy. With a general election scheduled for October, that is helpful. It also fits neatly with the prime minister’s pro-Israel foreign policy. He was one of the first foreign leaders to congratulate Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, after his surprise election victory (while reaffirming Canada’s support for a Palestinian state). (Continued: The Economist)
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