Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he received no advance warning from U.S. officials of the drone strike that killed a top Iranian general and days later led to Iran shooting down a Ukrainian passenger jet carrying dozens of Canadians.
Mr. Trudeau said he “obviously” would have preferred to receive notice of the Trump administration’s plan to assassinate Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Canada has several hundred troops stationed in Iraq, including at a U.S. air base that Iran targeted in retaliation for the killing of Gen. Soleimani.
“The U.S. makes its determinations,” Mr. Trudeau told Global News on Monday. “We attempt to work as an international community on big issues. But sometimes countries take actions without informing their allies.”
He blamed escalating tensions between the United States and Iran for the Jan. 8 missile strike that brought down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752, killing all 176 aboard, including 57 Canadians.
“I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families,” he said. “This is something that happens when you have conflict and war. Innocents bear the brunt of it.”
There’s a growing political battle south of the border over the rationale for the Jan. 3 drone strike that killed the Iranian military leader.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo doubled down on Monday on an assertion that Gen. Soleimani was planning to attack U.S. targets. “There was, in fact, a set of imminent attacks that were being plotted by Qassem Soleimani,” he told former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice during an event at Stanford University in Palo Alto, Calif., on Monday morning. “It was unmistakable.”
He said unspecified U.S. intelligence gathered over the previous 12 months persuaded Trump administration officials to recommend the assassination. “It was [the] view [of U.S. intelligence agencies] that the risks were real and growing and that the actions that we took that day reduced the risk,” he said.
Mr. Pompeo is at the centre of a debate over the administration’s shifting explanations for the death of Gen. Soleimani, and its response to the crash of Flight 752.
Congressional Democrats confirmed on Monday that Mr. Pompeo had refused to testify before a House foreign affairs committee hearing this week into the Trump administration’s policies toward Iran.
“With the wildly muddled explanations coming from the administration, the secretary should welcome the opportunity to make the case and answer questions before the American people,” committee chairman Eliot Engel said in a statement on Monday.
President Donald Trump has said repeatedly that the Iranian general was planning to attack as many as four U.S. embassies. But on the weekend, Defence Secretary Mark Esper told CBS he had not seen evidence detailing any specific target, saying only that he believed Iran would likely have focused on U.S. embassies.
On Monday, Mr. Trump defended the White House against accusations it had offered mixed messages about the attack.
“Here’s what’s been consistent: We killed Soleimani, the number-one terrorist in the world by every account,” he told reporters on the White House lawn. “And when the Democrats try and defend him, it’s a disgrace to our country.”
Rather than testify before Congress, Mr. Pompeo headed to California for a three-day visit that included dinner with a handful of tech leaders and a private meeting with Ms. Rice, who as the Bush administration’s national security adviser supported invading Iraq in 2003 over claims the regime was an imminent threat and had stockpiles weapons of mass destruction.
While pointing to the existence of U.S. intelligence, Mr. Pompeo added that killing Gen. Soleimani was part of a broader U.S. campaign of deterrence after violent protests by Iranian-backed militias erupted at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad in December. “We just want Iran to behave like a normal nation,” he said. “Just be like Norway.”
Mr. Pompeo avoided mention of the Ukrainian plane crash, noting only that no one was killed in an Iranian missile strike earlier that day on an Iraqi base housing U.S. troops. He warned that if Iran continued to escalate tensions with the U.S., “we will end it on our terms.”
The Globe and Mail, January 13, 2020