Canada posting warship in Med, but will not intervene in Syria without UN mandate


From Steven Chase, Les Perreaux, and Oliver Moore, the Globe and Mail:  Canada is ready to assist an international military intervention in Syria should sanctions and diplomacy fail, but the United Nations authorization that Ottawa says it would first require is neither imminent nor inevitable.

Still, the Harper government announced Sunday it was posting a warship to the Mediterranean until the end of 2012, a frigate that could be useful for evacuations or naval blockades if the violence in Syria descends into civil war.

Barely three weeks after the Harper government formally ended its role in the NATO bombing mission that helped oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, Ottawa says it’s prepared to offer assistance if necessary in Syria, where Bashar al-Assad’s bloody campaign of oppression against his own people has killed about 3,500. . . . 

Defence Minister Peter MacKay, who spent the weekend with major international military and security players at a forum in Halifax, said nobody is eager to enter the fray.

“With all of the brainpower that we had in this building in the last 72 hours, I didn’t hear anybody say ‘Let’s charge into Syria,’ ” he told reporters.

“What I heard was ‘Let’s contemplate the next move very cautiously,’ knowing … if you break it you own it.”

Mr. MacKay said he hopes that China and Russia can be persuaded to agree to levy economic sanctions on Syria through the United Nations as a next step.

He told CTV’s Question Period that Canada’s armed forces are “prepared for all inevitabilities” but said in the case of Syria, there are a “cascading number of [international] sanctions that would have to happen before there would be any type of intervention.”

The Defence Minister said a UN Security Council resolution is a “necessity in this instance” before Canada would agree to join an international effort to intervene in Syria, where Mr. al-Assad is viciously cracking down on protestors. . . . 

The Conservative government said HMCS Vancouver, which helped patrol the waters off Libya, will remain in the Mediterranean as part of a NATO counterterrorism effort, Operation Endeavour, until relieved by HMCS Charlottetown in early 2012.

“There’s no question that [Syria is] weighing heavy on our mind,” Mr. MacKay said. “The primary purpose is to contribute to antiterrorist operations in the region. But there’s no question having a ship in the region, in the event that Canadians need direct assistance or evacuation … gives us that capability to respond, should certain things transpire.

Asked if he would take military intervention against Syria off the table, Canada’s defence minister told Global TV’s The West Block that he would not.

“We, again I would say to you, are very cautious when you get into the projecting of military intervention. But to answer your question, no, I don’t think we should suggest that it’s not an option. It’s not the preferred option, it never is.”  (photo: Reuters)

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