By Scott Taylor
It was with very little fanfare that Canada announced last week that the Iraqi government has finally agreed to let us provide weapons to Kurdish militiamen. The weapons were originally promised by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau back in February, but that’s when things got a little bit sticky.
In the fall of 2014, the Harper Conservative government had first sent Canadian special forces trainers to Iraq, for the purpose of combatting the spread of the then-rampant Daesh evildoers. Canadians were told that our troops were going to Iraq because it made things seem a little simpler than was actually the case. Our special forces operatives were sent to the city of Erbil and when they stepped off the plane, they were greeted by a sign reading “Welcome to Kurdistan.”
It has indeed been Kurdish fighters that our soldiers have been training and assisting for the past two years. These Kurds are very open about their desire to establish an internationally recognized, independent nation. They already consider themselves to be a separate state; they fly their own flag and sing their own anthem.
Yes, they have proven to be motivated and effective fighters against Daesh, but they have also clashed with Iraqi security forces loyal to the Baghdad regime and their Shiite militia allies.
Canada’s official position is that we are supporting a unified Iraq under one central Baghdad government. Naturally, that same Baghdad regime did not like the idea of Canada supplying weapons to Kurdish troops, whose openly stated and oft-repeated aim is to break away from Iraq.
That sentiment of not providing more weapons to the Kurds was echoed by the Turkish government. Turkey is a NATO ally and they are presently dealing with a full-scale insurgency by Kurdish separatist forces in their eastern provinces. The revolt in Turkey is spearheaded by the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), which is recognized by Canada, the U.S. and the European Union as a terrorist organization.
Given the blurred lines between the various Kurdish militias, there are no doubt grave concerns on the part of the hard-pressed Turkish security forces, that Canadian-supplied weapons will end up in the hands of the PKK, or worse, the al-Qaeda Kurdish Battalions (AQKB).
While Canadian officials have not yet identified exactly what type of weapons we will provide the Kurds or at what cost, their shipment has admittedly not yet been sent.
Which means there is still time to rethink this flawed logic.
The allied campaign to recapture Daesh-held Mosul is now well underway. Progress has been slow and Daesh defenders have been determined not to abandon their final stronghold, but the end result is not in doubt.
So if Canadian-supplied weapons will not arrive in time to assist in driving Daesh from Iraq then this means that they will only reach the battlefield in time to assist in the post-Daesh mayhem that will inevitably ensue.
Iraq has been engulfed in a horrific orgy of interfactional bloodletting for the past 13 years and, somehow, the Canadian answer to the problem is to send in more weapons and to specifically train just one of the warring factions? Is training more young men to be soldiers the pathway to peace?
Human Rights Watch recently reported that the Kurdish militias trained by Canadian soldiers and loyal to warlord Massoud Barzani have been engaging in the ethnic cleansing of non-Kurdish minorities. Of course, this is not being done under the watchful eye of Canadian trainers — the Kurds are too clever for that.
Off the record, Canadian officers have admitted that their Kurdish fighters are not angels, but that they are the best of a bad lot.
Unlike those factions already involved in the conflict, Canada does not need to compromise its values or align with dubious allies. Thankfully, we have no dog in this fight, and ultimately we will have no say in the final resolution. Which makes it all the more ludicrous that we would start pouring more weapons and munitions into an already raging conflagration over which we have zero control.