LONDON - Canada is prepared to do its “full part” to confront Islamist militants that are emerging as a Taliban-style threat to global security, Prime Minister Stephen Harper says.
“We should not minimize this,” he said, warning of the dangers of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), an Al Qaeda splinter group rampaging across Syria and swaths of Iraq.
“It has the capacity of not just leading regional jihad, but becoming a massive terrorist training base for the globe,” Harper said.
“I don’t think we can sit still for this. Not that all of the actions we should take are necessarily clear,” Harper said.
On Wednesday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird made a surprise visit to Baghdad to deliver additional financial assistance and to urge ethnic tolerance in a land strained by tensions and fighting.
Joined by NDP MP Paul Dewar and Liberal MP Marc Garneau, Baird met with government officials and pledged $15 million for non-lethal security gear, such as helmets, body armour and logistics support vehicles to security forces in Iraq battling ISIL fighters. It also includes $5 million to assist efforts to limit the movement of foreign fighters into Iraq and Syria though no additional details were provided.
Canada has been involved in supporting Kurdish fighters in their battle against the militants. Transport aircraft from the Royal Canadian Air Force have been used to shuttle humanitarian aid as well as military supplies provided by other nations to the Kurds.
But Harper hinted that Ottawa was contemplating even further action, together with allies, to “stabilize” the situation.
“We will be addressing some of those issues in the days to come,” the prime minister said.
He said where there is a common threat and allies are willing to act, “the general position of the government of Canada is that we’re also willing to act and prepared to play our full part.
“We’re speaking to our allies about how we can do that, and what the best strategy is going forward,” he said.
Harper’s comments Wednesday were prompted by the murder of U.S. journalist Steven Sotloff at the hands of ISIL militants, just days after journalist James Foley was also killed by the same group.
As he did with Foley’s death, Harper expressed disgust at the killing, saying it showed again how “barbaric and brutal” the organization is. He said the high-profile deaths are just the tip of the iceberg of the abuses unfolding at the hands of the militants.