ISIS mission: Canada mulls deploying CF-18 jets to join U.S.-led strikes

The federal cabinet will meet next week to discuss deploying Canada's CF-18 fighter jets to join a U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, CBC News has learned.

Cabinet will weigh the decision next week

Canadian Forces CF-18 fighter jets may join a U.S.-led effort against ISIS militants. (Cpl Pierre Habib/Canadian Armed Forces/Reuters)

The federal cabinet will meet next week to discuss deploying Canada's CF-18 fighter jets to join a U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, CBC News has learned.

Sources tell CBC News U.S. President Barack Obama brought the idea of an air war conducted by an international coalition to Prime Minister Stephen Harper in August and asked for Canada 's support. 

Harper agreed to send military advisers to Iraq to scope out what Canada could offer. Canada has deployed 69 special forces advisers in Iraq to date.

The United Kingdom, France, the Netherlands and Arab countries in the meantime offered to send fighter jets. With those commitments in mind and with information from Canada's advisers on the ground, Harper decided to take the option of sending CF-18s to his cabinet.

Harper hinted at increased action before

Yesterday, Harper hinted in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that Canada may be ready for an increased role.

"We need to push them to the fringes and make their basic organization and logistical existence very difficult on an ongoing basis," he said. "A lot of that can be done from the air."

Obama called on nations to support the American-led coalition at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday.

"There can be no reasoning, no negotiation, with this brand of evil," he said.

Canada, along with several European and Middle Eastern countries, has joined the coalition.

But only the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have participated in airstrikes against ISIS targets in Syria. France has participated in some airstrikes in Iraq, and MPs in the U.K. are set to vote Friday about the possibility of assisting with airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq — but not Syria.

Canada currently has some CF-18 fighter jets patrolling eastern Europe, said Thomas Juneau, a former analyst for the Department of Defence.

"Does it mean it's impossible for Canada to deploy CF-18 fighter aircraft in addition to that in the Iraqi theatre?" he asked. "That really depends on how much. For how long."

Harper said he wants to meet with his cabinet before anything is decided. The meeting is expected to take place next week.

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