“If you want to help Iraq, send peacebuilders, do not send soldiers.” —Staffer from MCC partner in Erbil, Iraq
We all long to live in peace – without fear of war, violence or injustice. Sadly, 2020 has begun with drastic escalations in the Middle East, including intensifying military action between the U.S. and Iran inside Iraq, continued disputes over control of northwest Syria by regional powers, and violence committed by remnants of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. The people of Iraq, Iran and Syria are left without a moment to catch their breath after one armed conflict before the next begins. As people dedicated to peace, we must stand together as one humanity, dedicated to de-escalation, prevention and protection of human rights.
Countries around the world, including Canada, have committed millions of dollars and personnel to a military coalition against ISIS, supposedly in pursuit of a sustainable peace in the region. In light of the escalating tensions and attacks, Canada’s military mission in Iraq and the region, called Operation Impact, was put on hold, along with NATO’s Iraq training mission that Canada is currently leading. Canada has moved many of its armed forces based in Iraq to Kuwait for their protection, but the Prime Minister and other top officials are clear that Canada hopes to continue in the mission against ISIS. But in light of these growing tensions and complexities, is military intervention really the solution?
On March 18, 2019, the Canadian government announced the renewal – again – of its military mission in Iraq and the surrounding region for two more years until March 2021. The nature of the continued mission – and the specific plans for peace – remain unclear, but will likely include:
- continued training of Iraqi government forces, as well as defence forces in the region, including in Lebanon and Jordan,
- continued military support in regions where violent clashes continue, between multiple state and non-state actors.
Since 2018, Canada has also been leading the Iraq NATO mission, renewing its commitment in 2019.
The Canadian government has also supported humanitarian, development and – most recently – non-violent peacebuilding projects in the region.
However, the ongoing military mission raises significant concerns. The military mission does nothing to address the long-standing grievances underlying the conflict and continued divisions. Moreover, as local organizations and communities point out, foreign military intervention is actually exacerbating conflict and division, rather than contributing to long-lasting peace in Iraq and the region.
Please join us, and our Iraqi partners, in calling for Canada to end its military mission in Iraq and to invest efforts and resources into sustainable development, diplomacy and non-violent peacebuilding initiatives aimed at long-term peace and reconciliation.
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