It is being reported that one of Trudeau’s first moves as new PM has been to inform Barack Obama that Canada plans to pull its fighter jets from the air strikes on ISIS in Syria and Iraq, taking Canada out of the fight again the terrorist group. Some media outlets such as the Toronto Sun are bashing the move as dictatorial since Trudeau did not consult other members of government such as his cabinet or the Minister of Defence, both of which have yet to be officially named. While the decision is admittedly unilateral (given that the rest of the government has yet to be formed), it is still a necessary first step towards undoing some of the geopolitical follies of the Harper government.
Rather than simply lament what some see as a negative move, Canadian media should take a far step back and critically examine how ISIS came to be in Syria in the first place. This requires moving beyond myopic historical and geopolitical amnesia. The situation in Syria is very complex and is not always accurately portrayed, not least given that the US and its allies (including Canada and other NATO states) are currently, and ironically, attempting to take out a terrorist group that they helped—through military aid, training, armaments, border access through fellow NATO member Turkey, etc—put in Syria (as a way to undermine it) in the first place. While Canada was not directly involved, given the Harper regimes acquiescence to US foreign policy in the region and its agenda there, Canada is indirectly linked at the very least.
The US and NATO have been trying to topple the Assad regime since 2011, appropriating domestic insurgency and resistance to his government as a pretext for backing and arming the so-called Free Syria Army, which is little more than an outpost or Satellite of ISIS, though it initially tried to pass itself off as a home-grown revolutionary movement. But the Free Syria Army is much more than a group of dissident citizens; it is a highly organized and highly militarized armed group—linked to ISIS—that received much of its weaponry, funds and training from western states and regional allies like Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Turkey and Saudi have been allied with the US and other NATO nations since 2011 in backing violent terrorists against the Assad Regime. The BBC reported in 2013 that states such as France and the United States gave or planned to give arms and military support to the Free Syria Army (which has links to ISIS). As the insurgency grew more ISIS members poured into Syria through Turkey’s—a US ally—borders.
What this means is that the US and other western states, including Canada indirectly by virtue of its NATO membership and Harper’s deep alliance with the US, are among the reasons that ISIS is even in Syria (and Iraq) in the first place. It is completely disingenuous for these States (and their regional allies) to initially bolster ISIS in Syria and then turn around and launch air strikes against ISIS in Syria. Simply put, the US and its allies helped to create a problem and now, conveniently, they are attempting to militarily wipe out that problem in a State that they just so happen to have been attempting to destabilize for several years. A cynic might wonder if these air strikes are not in fact intended for Assad and his regime rather than ISIS. Since the west could not oust or kill Assad directly, plan B may be to bomb the country in order to take out terrorists—who are there against Assad not allied with him—that they indirectly created and installed in Syria in the first place.
Given the double-sided policy in Syria and the role that western powers played in creating or bolstering ISIS, Trudeau vowing to withdraw Canada from the bogus anti-ISIS air strikes is a step in the right direction towards undoing a situation Canada indirectly played a disturbing role in, and should never have been involved in, in the first place. It remains to be seen if Trudeau will actually follow through and what his overall policy for the region will be in the coming months and years, but pulling Canadian fighter jets out of this charade is a necessary first move.