Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Peter MacKay, referring to the detention by Iran of fifteen British naval and military personnel, issued the following statement yesterday: (emphasis mine)
“We are deeply concerned that Iran has detained 15 British military personnel for more than five days now, despite clear evidence that their vessels were operating in Iraqi territorial waters.Umm... alright. There is a technical disconnect there, but it's hardly worth pursuing at this stage of the game. The kicker however, came in the printed version from Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada which provided clarification of MacKay's statement in the final paragraph. Woman at Mile 0 picked it up and it needs an explanation.
“This is an unacceptable incident. Iran has no authority to conduct military operations within Iraqi territorial waters. It should also be noted that British forces are operating in Iraq under UN authority and at the invitation of the Government of Iraq.“Canada calls upon Iran to immediately release the British military personnel and take the necessary action to prevent such incidents from happening again.”
The British personnel were engaged in legitimate and routine boarding operations of merchant shipping in Iraqi territorial waters in support of the Government of Iraq. Canadian naval ships have conducted the same type of operations in this area under the same mandate.EXCUSE ME?!!
Since when have Canadian naval operations in the Persian Gulf been conducted in support of the Government of Iraq? How and when have HMC ships been assigned to forces operating under any other caveat than the US-led Operation Enduring Freedom?
Naval support of the government of Iraq is a part of the US Operation Iraqi Freedom and British Operation Telic, neither of which involve Canada - at all.
These are past CF operations. These are current CF operations. Perhaps MacKay can explain where, in any of those operations, the Canadian Navy is tasked with providing support to operations in Iraq.
Perhaps Peter MacKay is stuck in the mindset created by this letter, written by Harper and Day during their fit of anger at being denied the opportunity to join the unsanctioned US invasion of Iraq.
In many cases, naval activities in the Persian Gulf area of operations is placed under one commander, essentially double-hatting the Officer in Tactical Command under both the Op Enduring Freedom (OEF) and the Op Iraqi Freedom (OIF) mantles. In those instances, where a Canadian warship is assigned, there must be a clear definition of the duties to which any Canadian ship can be assigned. Whenever an activity is carried out under OIF direction, orders and rules of engagement, Canadian units should be required to detach and remain clear of that operation.
Canada is not a part of Bush's "coalition of the willing".
But now, it looks like MacKay and company have blurred the lines which separate the two campaigns. Neither he, nor Harper, are in a position to do that yet, either MacKay is trying to sneak one past the Canadian population, and Parliament or, he doesn't know the difference.
It doesn't matter that George Bush has tried to mix the two; Canada isn't involved in Iraq. Any naval operations, and that includes vessel hailing and boarding anywhere in the Gulf, including the Shat al-Arab waterway, must meet the criteria established under a Canadian designated operation assigned to OEF.
It's time MacKay explained the contents of his press release. Canadians have a right to know if this country has committed to Bush's Iraq quagmire. If there is a Canadian Forces mission in Iraq, beyond the single UN observer on Op Iolas, MacKay, Harper and O'Connor need to explain it - in full - to Parliament.