Cablegate: Canada Won't Join Military Action Against Iraq

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: Echoing Prime Minister Chretian's March
17 comments in Parliament, Canadian Deputy Foreign Minister
Lavertu formally notified A/DCM Gerson that, absent another
UNSC resolution, Canada would not participate in a U.S.-led
military coalition against Iraq. End Summary.

2. (SBU) A/DCM Leslie Gerson and British High Commissioner
Sir Robert Andrew Burns were advised by Deputy Foreign
Minister Gaetan Lavertu in a meeting at Canadian Department
of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) on March
17 that the Canadian government will not join in military
operations against Iraq in the absence of a new U.N. Security
Council resolution. During the meeting Mr. Lavertu made the
following points:

-- Canada has been clear in stating its deep concern
regarding Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program and its
continued defiance of calls by the international community
for it to disarm; it has no illusions about the nature of the
repressive and brutal regime of Saddam Hussein;

-- It therefore strongly supported the unanimous adoption by
the UNSC of resolution 1441 with its clear message regarding
'serious consequences' if Iraq failed to disarm; Canada
recognizes the considerable efforts made by Security Council
members during these past months - led by the U.S. - to find
a common way forward in terms of ensuring Iraqi compliance
with its international obligations;

-- The GOC knows that this has not been easy and has taken
considerable political time and effort to try to manage this
issue through the United Nations; it is grateful that this
effort was made, believing that United Nations Security
Council is the appropriate forum within which to determine
this important matter of international peace and security.

--Canada has said that, if there were a clear decision by the
UN Security Council, it would do its part; it deeply regrets
the inability of Security Council members to come to
agreement on the issue of a second resolution, despite the
efforts made. Canada did its best to try and bridge the deep
divisions within the Council and understands why we have
decided that we now need to act on the serious consequences
spelled out in 1441;

-- While Canada intends to leave its 1280 military personnel,
ships and aircraft in the region to continue to contribute to
the campaign against terrorism, as the Prime Minister stated
today in the House of Commons, it will not be a member of the
military coalition against Iraq;

-- In its public messaging the GOC will stress that the issue
is, and continues to be, about Iraq; its non-compliance; its
weapons of mass destruction and its grudging cooperation with
the inspectors, even in the face of Security Council
unanimity and the build up of military forces in the region.
Iraq bears the responsibility for the consequences of its
actions and continued violation of international law. Canada
will also say that it has decided not be a member of the
military coalition and will concentrate its efforts in the
campaign against terrorism - through its ships in the Gulf
and its forthcoming contribution to ISAF in Afghanistan;

-- Canada's commitment to the coalition effort under
Operation Enduring Freedom is undiminished and the horror of
September 11th is still fresh in its minds;

-- Canada is also preparing to play a major role in the
continued stability and security of Afghanistan, through
ISAF; this summer it will deploy a Battle Group to
Afghanistan for a twelve-month period; Canada believes that
these tasks are more important than ever;

-- Canada will also do its part in humanitarian assistance
and post conflict resolution in Iraq, but believes that these
activities must take place under the auspices of the United
Nations. In this respect the GOC would urge Council members
to work assiduously to come to agreement within the Council
on this important aspect of the Iraq crisis; in this way all
members of the international community will be able to make
their contribution to improving the lives of the
long-suffering Iraqi people.

2. (U) We note that Prime Minister Chretien first announced
his government's position earlier in the day during the
regular question period in the House of Commons. To loud
applause from the Liberal Party majority, Chretien said
Canada would not participate in military action against Iraq
unless a new Security Council resolution authorized such
action. He claimed no country has worked harder than Canada
to bridge the gap between factions in the Security Council.
The Prime Minister also repeated statements he had made in a
March 9 appearance on an American news program, that there
was no need to go to war because Saddam is now surrounded and
monitored by UN weapons inspectors.

3. (U) Prime Minister Chretien also indicated that Canadian
naval vessels carrying out escort and surveillance duties in
the Arabian Sea as part of the war against terrorism will
continue on those assignments. Rejecting suggestions that
the vessels might be reassigned to take part in a war with
Iraq, Chretien referred to the present mission of the vessels
as an important one for the Canadian navy. He also said that
a very small group of Canadian military personnel who are
assigned through exchange programs to British and American
units in the region are not in combat roles, and will not be
4. (C) Comment: The Prime Minister's statement today
regarding the need for a second Security Council resolution
was a departure from Canada's previous waffling on whether a
second resolution would be necessary for Canadian
participation in military actions against Iraq. In
justifying his government's decision not to join in military
action against Iraq, Chretien pointed to the failure of the
latest British proposal to gain any traction in the Security
Council in recent days as "very important". During his
meeting with the A/DCM, however, the Deputy Foreign Minister
stressed that, even though they remain unable to endorse
military action on the basis of resolution 1441 alone, Canada
remains a strong friend and ally of both the United States
and the U.K. Canada, in its public statements, will voice
its understanding of any action we undertake and will
continue to place the blame on Iraq. We will not, he said,
hear criticism or doubts expressed by Ottawa.

6. (C) Comment Continued: Following the meeting, Political
Director Jim Wright emphasized that, despite public
statements that the Canadian assets in the Straits of Hormuz
will remain in the region exclusively to support Enduring
Freedom, they will also be available to provide escort
services in the Straits and will otherwise be discreetly
useful to the military effort. The two ships in the Straits
now are being augmented by two more enroute, and there are
patrol and supply aircraft in the UAE which are also
prepared to "be useful." This message tracks with others we
have heard. While for domestic political reasons and out of
a deep-seated Canadian commitment to multilateralism the GOC
has decided not to join in a U.S. coalition of the willing,
they will refrain from criticism of our actions, express
understanding, and focus their public comments on the real
culprit, Iraq. They are also prepared to be as helpful as
possible in the military margins, an aspect of their role
which we intend to clarify.

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Myanmar: UN Condemns Escalating Violence In Deadliest Day Of Protests So Far

In response to the killing of at least 18 protesters demonstrating against Myanmar’s military coup, the UN human rights office (OHCHR) on Sunday together with the UN chief, strongly condemned the “escalating violence” and called for an immediate end to the use of force... More>>

Syria: Economic Decline, Rising Hunger And Surging Humanitarian Needs

Syria’s fragile economy has “suffered multiple shocks” over the past 18 months, with its currency plummeting and joblessness swelling as people struggle to cover their basic needs, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator told the Security Council ... More>>

OECD: Final Quarter Of 2020 Shows Continued Recovery In G20 International Merchandise Trade

G20 international merchandise trade continued to rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020 ( exports up 7.2% and imports up 6.8%), following the sharp falls seen in the first half of 2020, as lockdown measures affected trade globally. Although growth ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

UNFCCC: Greater Climate Ambition Urged As Initial NDC Synthesis Report Is Published

UN Climate Change today published the Initial NDC Synthesis Report, showing nations must redouble efforts and submit stronger, more ambitious national climate action plans in 2021 if they’re to achieve the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global temperature rise by 2°C—ideally 1.5°C—by the end of the century... More>>

2021: Critical Year To ‘reset Our Relationship With Nature’ – UN Chief

During this time of “crisis and fragility”, the UN chief told the United Nations Environment Assembly on Monday that human well-being and prosperity can be vastly improved by prioritizing nature-based solutions. Painting a picture of the turmoil ... More>>

Paris Agreement: UN Secretary-General António Guterres To Mark U.S. Reentry With Envoy For Climate John Kerry

Watch live at UN Secretary-General António Guterres will join U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John F. Kerry at an event marking the United States’ reentry into the Paris Agreement this Friday. The discussion with the Secretary-General ... More>>