Asked and answered: Trudeau's Iraq questions and Harper's answers


On Wednesday, Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party distributed a list of what it called the “Prime Minister’s Unanswered Questions On Iraq.”  Let’s look at those questions and see if any were answered by Prime Minister Stephen Harper today in the House of Commons. (Short answer:  Answers were provided for most)

Liberal questions are in red. Harper’s answers are in blue and in quotation marks. The answers in blue but not in quotation marks are lifted directly from a “backgrounder” distributed by the PMO after his speech.

1. What military support has the Prime Minister specifically offered to the United States?

On September 19, 2014, Canada received a direct request for additional military support against ISIL from the U.S. Government.

In response to these requests, the Government will provide Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) personnel, aircraft and other equipment which will:

· Support and conduct air strikes against terrorist group ISIL, and its allies in Iraq;
· Provide advice to assist Iraqi Forces in combatting terrorist group ISIL, and its allies in Iraq;
· Provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and,
· Provide planning and liaison personnel to work with the U.S. and other Allies.

Specifically, during the mission of up to 6 months, Canada will:

· Provide one CC150 Polaris, two CP140 Auroras and one dedicated airlift aircraft to enhance the refueling, air surveillance and transportation capacity of coalition members engaging in airstrikes against terrorist group ISIL, and its allies in Iraq, including approximately 280 aircrew and other personnel; and,
· Provide up to six CF188 Hornet fighter aircraft as part of a strike force to support Iraqi forces in the fight against terrorist group ISIL, and its allies in Iraq, including approximately 320 aircrew and other personnel.

2. What is the Canadian objective in any new military action? What is the plan to reach that objective?

“Let me be clear on the objectives of this intervention. We intend to significantly degrade the capabilities of ISIL, specifically, its ability to either engage in military movements of scale, or to operate bases in the open.

Cette mission arrêtera la propagation de l’État islamique dans la région et diminuera de beaucoup sa capacité de mener des attaques terroristes à l’extérieur de la région. Pour être clair, disons que cette intervention ne permettra pas d’éliminer cette intervention terroriste ni de garantir automatiquement que notre forme de gouvernance puisse prendre sa place en Irak ou en Syrie. Elle permettra toutefois de donner la possibilité à d’autres de le faire.

But again to be clear, while ISIL will not be eliminated, the risks presented from the territory in which it operates will be significantly reduced to those of other similar un-governed spaces in the broader region.:

3. Has the United States specifically asked that Canada deploy CF-18 fighter jets? How many CF-18s have been asked for by the U.S.? How long of a commitment has been requested?

Not answered by Harper and not answered in the backgrounder. But here is what U.S. Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon today:

“We’re obviously grateful for the contributions of any nation that is willing to come forward and contribute to the coalition. The Canadians have been obviously supporting in other ways, so we’re grateful for that. Our position on all along has not been specifically to demand or ask a nation to do anything in particular – that it’s up to them, their government, their people to determine the scope of their participation, and we continue to look forward to working with Canada as we go forward.”

4. Is the government considering combat options other than deploying CF-18s?

“There will, however, be no ground combat mission, which is explicitly ruled out in the resolution.”

5. Is Canada considering combat options in Syria as well as Iraq?

“We will strike ISIL where, and only where, Canada has the clear support of the government of that country. At present, this is only true in Iraq. If it were to become the case in Syria, then we will participate in air strikes against ISIL in that country also.

Le gouvernement du Canada ne cache le dégoût que nous inspirent les actions du régime Assad. Cependant, ce que nous faisons, c’est participer à une opération antiterroriste contre l’État islamique et ses alliés. Nous ne voulons faire la guerre à aucun gouvernement dans la région.”

6. What is the timeline for a debate and vote in Parliament on a combat mission?

The text of the motion that will be debated and voted upon on Monday Oct. 6 is here. So Monday is the answer.

7. Will the incremental cost of a combat mission reduce the amount of humanitarian aid that the government would provide?

“The military measures we are taking do not in any way preclude humanitarian actions. There is no either-or here.

Horrifiés par les souffrances humaines, nous fournissons déjà des abris d’urgence et des soins médicaux d’urgence à des milliers de civils en Irak, en soutenant des organisations humanitaires présentes sur le terrain ainsi qu’une assistance substantielle au gouvernement de l’Irak.

This is in addition to large scale financial assistance already being furnished to the significant number of countries in the region that have been impacted by the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria.”

8. Is the current mission being funded out of existing budgets or from a supplemental allotment?

Not answered.

9. Are the 69 Canadian Armed Forces personnel deployed to Iraq presently in that country? Has the number of personnel grown? Who provides orders to the current mission?

The PM has said earlier in the week during Question Period that while 69 advisors have been authorized to be in Iraq, our Allies have only asked that about 30 or so be there. On the second question, the backgrounder says that 600 aircrew and other personnel will be in theatre as a result of the aircraft deployments. On that last point, here is a point from the Backgrounder: All CAF personnel and air assets will remain under Canadian military command, but could receive day-to-day mission tasks from coalition commanders. 

10. What was the objective of the initial 30-day mission, and what have we accomplished?

Not directly answered today.

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