The safety of Canadians in the Middle East is of “paramount concern,” the Canadian government says following the killing of a powerful Iranian general by the United States.
“Canada is in contact with our international partners. The safety and well-being of Canadians in Iraq and the region, including our troops and diplomats, is our paramount concern,” Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said in a statement late Friday morning.
There are 850 Canadian Forces members deployed throughout Iraq.
Champagne called on “all sides to exercise restraint and pursue de-escalation.”
The Canadian government’s call echoed ones from its international partners. Britain, France, China, and some American politicians have all called for restraint.
“Our goal is and remains a united and stable Iraq,” Champagne said. “Canada has long been concerned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force, led by Qassem Soleimani, whose aggressive actions have had a destabilizing effect in the region and beyond.”
Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, was killed Friday in a U.S.-led airstrike near Baghdad’s international airport. The airstrike marks a pivotal escalation in the ongoing conflict between Washington and Tehran.
Iranian officials have promised “harsh retaliation” for the killing.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who ordered the attack, said the action was necessary because Soleimani was plotting to kill many Americans.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended the strike, saying Soleimani posed an “imminent” threat to the U.S. and its interests in the region.
The United States has urged its citizens to leave Iraq “immediately” as fears of retaliation mount.
Travel advisories for Canadians were updated on Friday as well.
Canadians have been asked to avoid all travel to Iraq since October as a result of protests in Baghdad and other cities.
But the Canadian government warned Friday that the security situation in both Iraq and Iran “could worsen with little warning” and they told Canadians to consider leaving Iraq.
“There is an increased threat of attacks against Western interests and of terrorist attacks in general,” the advisories stated.
While there isn’t a warning to avoid all travel to Iran, any visitors should exercise “a high degree of caution.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not commented on the incident at this time.
The leader of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh, tweeted Friday that the U.S. airstrike in Iran has “brought us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East.”
“The Prime Minister needs to act quickly with other countries to de-escalate the situation and not be drawn into the path that President Trump is taking.”
— With files from the Associated Press and the Canadian Press and Kerri Breen, Global News