Peggy Mason on extension of the military mission in Iraq and Syria

Peggy-Todd Van Der Heyden CTV interview March, 26 2015

Peggy Mason, President of the Rideau Institute,  was interviewed on the extension and expansion of the Canadian military mission in Iraq and Syria on CTV News, hosted by Todd Van Der Heyden, on Thursday, March 26th, 2015.

Watch the full interview here: CTV News Channel.

Here’s the transcribed and edited text of the interview.

Todd Van Der Heyden

Let’s go to Ottawa now. Peggy Mason is my guest; she’s the President of the Rideau Institute and Canada’s former UN Ambassador for Disarmament. Peggy, good to have you on the program, and I want to get your take on this now, the government’s announcement that, as expected, they want to extend and expand this mission.

Peggy Mason

Well, I have to say I’m rather surprised at the extension into Syria because it is so clearly not sanctioned under international law and it’s also not clear at all what our objectives would be by doing that.

Todd Van Der Heyden

Yeah, Peggy, let’s expand on that because some people might be confused over that, this idea that the Iraqi government formally asked for military help whereas in Syria it’s a much more chaotic situation, no formal help has been asked by the regime of Bashar Al Assad. So, there are a lot of countries, including European allies, who say we don’t have a legal mandate to go into Syria, this would be illegal.

Peggy Mason

Exactly, if we consider the situation with respect to Russia and the concern about Russia breaching the sovereignty of Ukraine and thereby breaching international law, and all of the concern of this government and others over that, then it would seem to be very unwise for Canada to take the position we don’t really care about international law and that we will breach the sovereignty of Syria if we so wish.

There is also a practical aspect to this, of course, and that is if we don’t have the agreement of the Assad regime, then there’s a very real risk that we will be fired on by the Assad regime, and in fact it’s widely believed that the United States—which has been carrying out airstrikes in Syria as well as Iraq for some time—that they are tacitly coordinating with the Assad regime. They might not be acknowledging it, but they must be doing this tacit coordination in order to avoid being fired on themselves.

So, a very murky business, and why would we want to be doing this?

Todd Van Der Heyden

The Obama administration has notified the United Nations of what they did in terms of Syria.  Is that enough?

Peggy Mason

No, it isn’t. What the United States has done is they’ve used this argument of Article 51 of self-defence. If you actually read Article 51 of the UN Charter, it talks about a state’s inherent right of self-defence in the face of imminent attack, in the face of an armed attack, and it has been interpreted to also include an imminent one.  So, clearly that is not the case: the United States is not under an armed attack from Syria, nor under an imminent threat of it. The United States has tried to say, ‘well, we can extend this to non-state actors’. Well, even if one did, and I would argue you cannot, Islamic state is not threatening an [imminent armed] attack on the United States.

It’s an interpretation of international law that only the United States and Israel advance. No other country uses this rationale, and it would be a terrible thing for a country like Canada, which has played such an important role in building international law, to use a very dubious argument which in fact undermines international law.

Todd Van Der Heyden

Peggy Mason is the President of Rideau Institute. Great to get you on the program and share your perspective. Thanks for this.

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