The Canadian Forces have flown dozens of Canadian, American and other allied troops out of Iraq ahead of Iranian missile strikes on multiple military bases.
The attack began around 1:30 a.m. local time Wednesday in Iraq and targeted American and allied troops at two military bases in Iraq: the Ain Al-Assad base and another near Erbil.
Canadian soldiers are stationed in Erbil. Chief of the Defence Staff General Jonathan Vance tweeted Tuesday evening that all Canadian military personnel in Iraq are safe.
The Department of National Defence is still assessing what happened and Canadian special operations forces remain in Iraq.
Domestically, sources say some Canadian police and national security organizations are prepared to move into a heightened state of readiness due to concerns of Iranian assets in the country, though no imminent attack is expected.
Several American cities have also taken similar steps.
The relocation of troops began Monday and continued Tuesday, as Canadian Forces used large strategic-lift C-17 Globemaster aircraft to fly Canadian, American and other allied troops to Kuwait. Senior military sources say civilians, unarmed personnel and those with only sidearms are being prioritized.
A senior Canadian military source says Canada is waiting to see what the Americans’ response to the attack will be.
Any military response could escalate an already tense situation, which has been building since a U.S. drone strike killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq on Jan. 3.
“It is clear that these missiles were launched from Iran and targeted at least two Iraqi military bases hosting U.S. military and coalition personnel at Al-Assad and Irbil,” the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs told Global News in a statement.
He added the U.S. will take “all necessary measures to protect and defend U.S. personnel, partners, and allies in the region.”
Late Tuesday night, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a statement on the missile attacks after convening the Incident Response Group, which includes the minister of defence, the minister of foreign affairs, the chief of defence staff, the national security and intelligence advisor, the clerk of the privy council and the deputy ministers of defence and foreign affairs.
“Canadians can be proud of the important work that our troops and diplomats are doing to fight Daesh and stabilize Iraq,” the statement read in part. “We are deeply concerned with the missile attacks launched by Iran.
“The safety of the women and men who serve is our top priority, and we are taking all necessary precautions for the security of our civilian, military and diplomatic personnel.”
Trudeau added that his government continues to “strongly urge de-escalation across the region.”
“We are in constant contact with our international partners and are briefing members of the Opposition parties.”
Iran’s state-run news outlet ISNA reported shortly after the missile strikes on military bases in Iraq that “courageous fighters of the IRGC’s Air Force launched a successful operation called Operation Martyr Soleimani, with the code ‘Oh Zahra’ by firing tens of ground-to-ground missiles at the base of the terrorist and invasive US forces.”
— With files from The Associated Press