Canada is right to shift focus toward Baghdad and away from the Kurds

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COMMENTARY

by Thomas Juneau

The Globe and Mail
June 11, 2018

Canada announced last week that it is formally ceasing its mission to train Kurdish militias in northern Iraq and that from now on it will concentrate its efforts on advising and assisting federal Iraqi government troops. Canada will, in particular, help Baghdad provide security in the northern city of Mosul.

This is the right decision. The Kurds were useful partners after 2014, when they represented one of the few reliable partners to fight the sudden surge by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. IS has not been fully defeated, but it is significantly weakened. Continuing to support the Kurds was thus not necessary anymore. Canada’s policy, moreover, is to support a united Iraq; supporting the Kurds amounted to arming a sub-state actor seeking independence.

Canada’s long-term interests lie in deepening relations with Baghdad. Democratic progress in Iraq is not perfect, but the country has made important progress in recent years, as witnessed by the recent elections in which there was genuine competition over ideas. Canada should encourage this rare exception in the Middle East. Iraq is also an important regional power with large hydrocarbon reserves; it is in Canada’s interest to deepen relations.

Image credit: Ryan Remiorz

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