Canada should have been warned in advance by the Americans of U.S. President Donald Trump’s plan to kill a high-ranking Iranian military general with a drone strike, say two senior government sources.
Ottawa also wants a more thorough explanation from the Trump administration of the thinking behind the attack, according to federal government sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
CBC News spoke with the sources on the condition of anonymity, as the individuals are not authorized to speak publicly.
It’s not clear exactly what the Trudeau government saw as unsatisfactory in Washington’s stated rationale for killing a senior military official in a foreign country.
One source said that it’s hard to work as part of a military coalition, like the one pursuing the remnants of ISIS in Iraq, without solid cooperation among members — and with the most powerful partner in that coalition pursuing a path its allies don’t fully grasp.
Searching for an explanation
Asked today by host Chris Hall of CBC Radio’s The House whether Canada had received any advance notice of the plan to kill Soleimani, Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said he could not “go into the specifics of operations or intelligence.”
Champagne said that, “following the death of Gen. Soleimani, we had — and I think that’s what Canadians would expect from us — put our force (in Iraq) under what we call force protection … So despite the missiles that were fired by Iran, all the Canadians and coalition troops and Iraqis were safe.”
Trump administration officials have claimed Soleimani was actively planning attacks against Americans. President Trump himself claimed the infamous Iranian military leader was scheming to “blow up” an American embassy, but offered no evidence to back that up.
Members of the U.S. Congress on both sides of the aisle have complained bitterly about the lack of information about the attack coming from the administration.
Canada has about 500 troops in Iraq; some have been moved to Kuwait in recent weeks in response to the ongoing volatility on the ground. About half of those Canadians are with the NATO training mission, while the others — including up to 250 special forces members — are involved in the U.S.-led anti-ISIS coalition.
The recent tensions in the region flared up on Dec. 27, when an Iranian-backed militia group killed an American contractor in Iraq.
Those tensions escalated to the brink of open warfare one week ago, when the U.S. retaliated by launching a drone strike that killed Iran’s top military general, Qassem Soleimani. He is said to be responsible for at least 600 American deaths.
In response to Soleimani’s killing, Iran launched 16 ballistic missiles early Wednesday at two military bases in Iraq housing U.S. military personnel. Some Canadian military personnel were also present at one of the bases at the time of the attack.
In the immediate aftermath of Soleimani’s death, Canada recognized the significance of the Americans’ action and security officials immediately began gathering information to brief Prime Minister Trudeau, the first source said. The PM was on vacation in Costa Rica at the time.
The first source said officials at the highest levels of the Canadian government feared that the act of killing Soleimani threatened to trigger dire consequences in the region.
That source stressed, however, that the event won’t fundamentally change the Canada-U.S. relationship. Canada remains fully committed to the principles of the NATO mission in Iraq and continues to share the overall security objectives of the U.S., the source said.
The stakes for Canada in the standoff in the Middle East ramped up Thursday when Trudeau announced that Canada has evidence indicating that Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was shot down by Iran, possibly by accident.
The passenger jet crashed outside Tehran early Wednesday morning local time, hours after the Iranian missile attack, killing all 176 people on board — 57 of whom, the government now says, were Canadians.
The first source said that, at this stage in the investigation, Canada is not focusing on who’s to blame for the crash. Trudeau was asked multiple times during Thursday’s press conference whether he thinks the U.S. is partially responsible for the crash, given the sequence of events.
“I think it is too soon to be drawing conclusions or assigning blame or responsibility in whatever proportions,” Trudeau told reporters gathered at Ottawa’s National Press Theatre.
“Right now, our focus is on supporting the families that are grieving right across the country and providing what answers we can in a preliminary way, but recognizing that there is going to need to be a full and credible investigation into what exactly happened before we draw any conclusions.”
Due to the time difference with Iran, top government officials in Ottawa first learned of the crash late Tuesday night as they were wrapping up a top secret briefing on the Iran crisis.
The first source said some officials had gathered together in an office, while others joined the confidential meeting by a secure telephone line. As the meeting was coming to a close, David Morrison, the foreign and defence policy adviser to the prime minister, was told a plane had just gone down in Tehran.
Canadian authorities were ordered to gather information throughout the night. The source said it was clear from the start that there would have been Canadians on that flight.
The source added that Canada did not have credible information about the probable cause of the crash until late Wednesday, after Canadian officials had spent much of the preceding 24 hours gathering information.
Top officials, including Chief of the Defence Staff Gen. Jonathan Vance and senior bureaucrats, gathered to discuss all of the available intelligence Thursday morning, the source said.
They came to the conclusion that the most probable cause of the crash was an Iranian missile strike, then briefed Trudeau and some members of his cabinet. Shortly afterward, Trudeau held his second press briefing in two days.
CBC News reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office but received no comment on the record by publication time.
Overcoming scandal and PTSD, Japan’s Princess Mako finally marries college sweetheart
Japan‘s Princess Mako, the emperor’s niece, has married her commoner college sweetheart on Tuesday and left the royal family after a years-long engagement beset by scrutiny that has left the princess with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Mako and fiance Kei Komuro, both 30, announced their engagement four years ago, a move initially cheered by the country. But things soon turned sour as tabloids reported on a money scandal involving Komuro’s mother, prompting the press to turn on him. The marriage was postponed, and he left Japan for law studies in New York in 2018 only to return in September.
Their marriage consisted of an official from the Imperial Household Agency (IHA), which runs the family’s lives, submitting paperwork to a local office in the morning, foregoing the numerous rituals and ceremonies usual to royal weddings, including a reception.
Mako also refused to receive a one-off payment of about $1.3 million typically made to royal women who marry commoners and become ordinary citizens, in line with Japanese law.
Television footage showed Mako, wearing a pastel dress and pearls, saying goodbye to her parents and 26-year-old sister, Kako, at the entrance to their home. Though all wore masks in line with Japan’s coronavirus protocol, her mother could be seen blinking rapidly, as if to fight off tears.
Though Mako bowed formally to her parents, her sister grabbed her shoulders and the two shared a long embrace.
In the afternoon, Mako and her new husband will hold a news conference, which will also depart from custom. While royals typically answer pre-submitted questions at such events, the couple will make a brief statement and hand out written replies to the questions instead.
“Some of the questions took mistaken information as fact and upset the princess,” said officials at the IHA, according to NHK public television.
Komuro, dressed in a crisp dark suit and tie, bowed briefly to camera crews gathered outside his home as he left in the morning but said nothing. His casual demeanour on returning to Japan, including long hair tied back in a ponytail, had sent tabloids into a frenzy.
Just months after the two announced their engagement at a news conference where their smiles won the hearts of the nation, tabloids reported a financial dispute between Komuro’s mother and her former fiance, with the man claiming mother and son had not repaid a debt of about $35,000.
The scandal spread to mainstream media after the IHA failed to provide a clear explanation. In 2021, Komuro issued a 24-page statement on the matter and also said he would pay a settlement.
Public opinion polls show the Japanese are divided about the marriage, and there has been at least one protest.
Analysts say the problem is that the imperial family is so idealised that not the slightest hint of trouble with things such as money or politics should touch them.
The fact that Mako’s father and younger brother, Hisahito, are both in the line of succession after Emperor Naruhito, whose daughter is ineligible to inherit, makes the scandal particularly damaging, said Hideya Kawanishi, an associate professor of history at Nagoya University.
“Though it’s true they’ll both be private citizens, Mako’s younger brother will one day become emperor, so some people thought anybody with the problems he (Komuro) had shouldn’t be marrying her,” Kawanishi added.
The two will live in New York, though Mako will remain on her own in Tokyo for some time after the wedding to prepare for the move, including applying for the first passport of her life.
(Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa)
EU countries splinter ahead of crisis talks on energy price spike
Divisions have deepened among European Union countries ahead of an emergency meeting of ministers on Tuesday on their response to a spike in energy prices, with some countries seeking a regulatory overhaul and others firmly opposed.
European gas prices have hit record highs in autumn and remained at lofty levels, prompting most EU countries to respond with emergency measures like price caps and subsidies to help trim consumer energy bills.
Countries are struggling to agree, however, on a longer term plan to cushion against fossil-fuel price swings, which Spain, France, the Czech Republic and Greece say warrant a bigger shake-up of the way EU energy markets work.
Ministers from those countries will make the case on Tuesday for proposals that include decoupling European electricity and gas prices, joint gas buying among countries to create emergency reserves, and, in the case of a few countries including Poland, delaying planned policies to address climate change.
In an indication of differences likely to emerge at the meeting, nine countries including Germany – Europe’s biggest economy and market for electricity – on Monday said they would not support EU electricity market reforms.
“This will not be a remedy to mitigate the current rising energy prices linked to fossil fuels markets,” the countries said in a joint statement.
The European Commission has asked regulators to analyse the design of Europe’s electricity market, but said there was no evidence that a different market structure would have fared better during the recent price jump.
“Any interventions on the market and the decoupling of [gas and power] pricing are off the table,” one EU diplomat said, adding there was “no appetite” among most countries for those measures.
Other proposals – such as countries forming joint gas reserves – would also not offer a quick fix and could take months to negotiate. A European Commission proposal to upgrade EU gas market regulation to make it greener, due in December, is seen as the earliest that such proposals would arrive.
With less than a week until the international COP26 climate change summit, the energy price spike has also stoked tensions between countries over the EU’s green policies, setting up a clash as they prepare to negotiate new proposals including higher tax rates for polluting fuels.
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban has dismissed such plans as “utopian fantasy”, a stance at odds with other EU countries who say the price jump should trigger a faster switch to low-emission, locally produced renewable energy, to help reduce exposure to imported fossil fuel prices.
(Reporting by Kate Abnett; Editing by Bernadette Baum)
Bad weather off Canadian coast preventing efforts to board container ship after fire
Sixteen crew members were evacuated from the MV Zim Kingston on Saturday. Five remained onboard to fight the fire, which was largely under control by late Sunday.
The company has appointed a salvage crew “but due to the current weather, (they) have been unable to board the container ship”, the coast guard said on Twitter.
“The containers continue to smolder and boundary cooling – spraying water on the hull and on containers near the fire – continues,” it added.
The ship is anchored several kilometers (miles) off the southern coast of Vancouver Island, in the province of British Columbia. There is no impact to human health, the coast guard said.
Danaos Shipping Co, the company that manages the ship, said on Sunday that no injuries had been reported on board.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Sandra Maler)
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