Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How genuine are Turkey’s and Saudi Arabia’s motives regarding ISIL?

While I am a supporter of the prime minister’s plan for Canada to join the U.S.-led international coalition against the Islamic State—commonly known as ISIL or ISIS—the irony of the mission is not lost on me.

I don’t know whether or not PM Stephen Harper’s plan to take us to war is simply a matter of crass politics and, at this point, I really do not care. I do, however, question the purity of motives of other members of the coalition because two nations in particular—Turkey and Saudi Arabia—have dubious agendas, or so it seems to me.

Turkey has joined the campaign against ISIL, without specifying what it will do. This should be good news for those Canadians who see ISIL as an evil scourge for Turkey is a NATO ally that shares the longest borders with Iraq and Syria and has the second largest army of all NATO members.

Common sense, however, dictates we question and assess Turkey’s motives. While Turkish officials have said they will assist in the fight, given Turkey’s past history of allowing the crossing of Islamist extremists into Syria, Kurds—our primary allies on the ground in Iraq and Syria—are understandably suspicious of its true intentions. Some say Turkey views the semi-autonomous Kurdish region on the Syrian side of its border as a greater threat than ISIL, and suspect that Turkey’s hidden agenda includes stemming the growing importance of Kurdish involvement in the coalition.

Turkey is, of course, loath to see Kurdish independence hopes—at home in Turkey, in Iraq or in Syria—encouraged in any way. This seems to be of overriding concern and will inform Turkey’s role in the anti-ISIL coalition, even to the point of impairing the coalition’s effectiveness in containing the ISIL threat.

This brings me to another coalition member with a similarly dubious agenda, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia’s ultraconservative brand of Islam, Wahhabi Islam, shares much with the purist Salafi ideology of ISIL. ISIL also shares the extreme anti-Shia sentiment so prevalent in Saudi Arabia.

Wahhabi Salafism is the state religion of Saudi Arabia and, under the guise of religious education, this oil-rich state has spent millions of dollars in public and private money to spread Wahhabi Salafism widely in the Middle East and across Western nations.

How ironic is it that the nation that is one of the main proponents of ultraconservative, purist Islam is a member of a military coalition that is intent on destroying the most zealous adherents of its religious ideology?

Let’s be thankful that Saudi Arabia is playing only a small part in the air campaign because, frankly, I’m not sure what side these Arabs are really on.

Politics—and war—do indeed make strange bedfellows.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals on wrong side of ISIL combat mission

Tuesday evening we will have a vote in our House of Commons on the Conservative government’s plan to join the U.S.-led international coalition in Iraq to contain or defeat—at the very least to degrade—the radical Islamic group known as ISIL, ISIS or simply IS.

Given that Conservatives hold a majority of the seats in the House and the government’s decision to make the vote a matter of confidence, the outcome is a forgone conclusion. It is, therefore, almost certain that Canada will join the United States, Britain, France, Australia and dozens of other nations, including five Arab allies—Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar—in airstrikes intended to stop ISIL from engaging in large-scale military movements or operating bases in the open.

The official opposition NDP is, of course, against any combat mission and especially one supported by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The Dippers couch their opposition in noble sounding predictions of Canada being dragged into a lengthy quagmire and propose—along with the Liberals—a bigger humanitarian role for Canada to help refugees caught in the fighting.

“If the Americans couldn’t get the job done in a decade, we’re not going to get it done in six months,” Tom Mulcair reportedly told CTV. “We have to learn the lessons of the past.”

The danger of ignoring military expansionism by a resolute, fanatic foes is also a lesson of the past Canadians might well heed, but that bit of historical lesson-learning seems to have eluded Mr. Mulcair.

Earlier today, I heard the Liberal party critic John McCallum tell us on TV that Stephen Harper was so gung-ho on joining the U.S. in its second Iraq War, he cannot be trusted with this new military mission.

Left unsaid by Mr McCallum, of course, was Liberal party’s support—while in government—of several other overseas conflicts, including the Gulf War and the Afghan War. Yet, apparently, Canadians are still expected trust in the Grits’ current stand on how Canada should confront ISIL.

Furthermore, Canadians who believe Canada played no part whatsoever in the discredited Iraq War should read this Wikipedia article and learn more about Liberal party duplicity on the issue.

Moreover, nothing precludes Canada from providing humanitarian aid to the victims of ISIL while playing a direct military role within the large international coalition assembled by U.S. President Barack Obama.

Justin Trudeau’s Liberals, however, have made a political calculation that we should stay out of any combat role and leave the fighting to others—this despite the acknowledgement of the grave threat posed by ISIL.

Justin Trudeau’s position is not the majority one on this issue though. The latest polls suggest most Canadians consider ISIL to be a direct, serious threat to Canada. And, while Trudeau insists we stay out of the fight against ISIL and stick to our already-underway humanitarian efforts, those polls indicate majority support for joining the U.S.-led coalition in a combat mission against the Islamic militants.

I’m with the Conservatives on this one.