On March 30, Canada’s parliament approved a plan to join American airstrikes on ISIS targets based in Syria. The mission was approved for one year. Fighter planes, surveillance aircraft and refueling planes are among the equipment to be supplied.
Besides the United States, Canada is the only other NATO or Western country to commit to fighting ISIS in Syria. Other NATO countries are committed only to fighting in Iraqi territory. Middle Eastern nations Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are also currently involved in the air campaign over Syria.
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government maintain that to be decisively beaten, ISIS forces must be engaged in Syria, as well as Iraq. Canadian planes already are being used against ISIS in Iraq.
Some critics fear that fighting ISIS directly will prop up the beleaguered dictatorship of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. His regime is considered just as ruthless as ISIS. The two forces are currently battling each other, as well as many other groups in the country.
Canadian opposition parties opposed the government’s decision. They argue that Canada does not have a legal right to be involved in Syrian territory without that country’s approval. They also expressed worries that Canada will be drawn into a long and protracted conflict that could go on for years, similar to what happened in Afghanistan.
Most agree there will be no easy resolution to the conflict. There are potentially hundreds of factions fighting in Syria’s civil war. Some of them are as brutal and violent as ISIS and the Assad regime. It will be difficult to distinguish the extremists from the moderates.
As the war drags on, extremist groups seem to be gaining strength in Syria. Even if ISIS is weakened by air strikes, the intense fighting and ongoing casualties are likely to continue.
With a general election scheduled for later in the year, it will be interesting to see if Canada’s growing military involvement in Iraq and Syria will become a high profile issue.