Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Direct Military Role for Canada in Troubled Syria Unlikely: NATO Source

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Direct Military Role for Canada in Troubled Syria Unlikely: NATO Source

Article excerpt

Military role for Canada in Syria unlikely

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OTTAWA - Canada's support of U.S.-led military action against Syria is likely to be only symbolic, in a strike that could last as little as a day, a NATO source told The Canadian Press.

The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said continuing discussions among like-minded nations are focused on an air campaign, using mostly Tomahawk missiles, that lasts up to 24 hours.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird hinted at such a brief and surgical intervention by the United States during an interview with Quebec's TVA network on Wednesday when discussing the volatile situation in the Middle East.

"That's the reason why if it was a small military intervention, it should be precise -- in and out," said Baird, who met in the afternoon with George Sabra, the head of the opposition Syrian National Council.

When host Mario Dumont hypothesized about a strike lasting four days, Baird interjected that it could be as short as two hours.

With Canadian military planes parked at home, and the frigate HMCS Toronto on the other side of the Arabian peninsula lacking long-range missiles, direct involvement by Canada would therefore be improbable, said the NATO source and other military experts.

"Right now in the late, waning days of August, the lead time involved in Canada having any air response is negligible," said Chris Corrigan, a retired colonel and now a defence-security analyst with the Royal Canadian Military Institute.

"A U.S. carrier battle group has as many F-18s on it right now in the Mediterranean ... (as) we have serviceable in the entire Canadian air force."

Baird underscored Canada's limitations when speaking publicly in Montreal, repeating his view that discussing military intervention is premature.

"I think some have speculated in the media and elsewhere that it could involve cruise missiles or armed drones, neither of which Canada has," he said.

"We'll let decisions be made before we know whether we have even the capacity to contribute militarily."

The NATO source said the extent of Canadian military assistance could be dispatching HMCS Toronto closer to the area to help protect American ships, as part of an international naval task force that operates in the Arabian Sea. …

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