Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Defence Minister Urges 'De-Escalation' of U.S.-Iran Dispute

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Canadian Defence Minister Urges 'De-Escalation' of U.S.-Iran Dispute

Article excerpt

Sajjan urges dialogue in U.S.-Iran dispute

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OTTAWA - Canada's defence minister is calling for calmer heads to prevail as a war of words between the U.S. and Iran threatens to turn into a war of bullets and bombs.

Such a conflict could easily spill over into Iraq and the surrounding region, where around 850 Canadian soldiers are deployed as part of the war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

"What we would like to see is de-escalation of this and bring it back from a military conversation and back into the diplomatic sphere," Sajjan said in an interview with The Canadian Press from Brussels Thursday, where he was concluding two days of meetings with counterparts from across NATO.

The dispute revolves around U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from an agreement his predecessor Barack Obama signed with Iran that limits Iran's nuclear program in return for the lifting of sanctions.

Iran has since been accused of attacking several oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman and is on the verge of stockpiling more uranium than the agreement allowed. The U.S. has imposed new sanctions and launched a cyberattack on an Iranian militia.

The two sides appeared close to blows last week after Iran shot down a U.S. military drone. Trump said he nearly ordered retaliatory strikes against the country but reversed course after advisers told him those would kill 150 Iranians.

Fears nonetheless persist over the potential for a conflict, which would almost certainly have ramifications across the broader Middle East -- including in neighbouring Iraq, where Iran has a sizable influence.

Part of that influence comes from Iran's support for various Shia Muslim militia groups, which helped defeat the Sunni ISIL but owe their allegiance more to Tehran than Baghdad and could be a threat to western forces if war broke out.

While Sajjan expressed confidence about the safety of Canadian military personnel in the region, "nonetheless, from the military side, we'll be closely monitoring things to make sure our people remain safe. …

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