Ilkka Kanerva (NCP), the chairperson of the Parliament’s Defence Committee, spoke to members of the media about the participation of Finland in the US-led OIR in Helsinki on Thursday, 9 January 2020. (Antti Aimo-Koivisto – Lehtikuva)

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THE CRISIS MANAGEMENT operation underway in Erbil, Iraq, may be the most dangerous in the history of Finland, views Ilkka Kanerva (NCP), the chairperson of the Parliament’s Defence Committee.

Around 80 Finnish troops are stationed in the city participating in an international crisis management operation amid rising tensions between Iran and the United States.

“It’s likely to be the most dangerous [operation] in hour peacekeeping and crisis management history,” Kanerva stated in a press conference organised in the Parliament House on Thursday, 9 January.

The Defence Committee yesterday held an extraordinary meeting to discuss the situation of Finnish military personnel in Erbil. The airbase that houses the troops was one of the two targets of a missile strike launched by Iran on Wednesday, 8 January, in retaliation of the killing of Qassem Suleimani, the head of the foreign-operations branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), by the United States.

No Finns were injured in the strike, according to the Finnish Army.

All Nordic countries are participating in Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), a US-led collaborative intervention against the so-called Islamic State (IS). The training activities conducted as part of the operation had been suspended already before the firing of almost two dozen ballistic missiles by Iran.

“The situation has now settled down, but no one can guarantee how it goes from here. The cycle of revenge is still real and can manifest itself in many ways going forward,” reminded Kanerva. “Finns’ situation there is well under control. There have been no casualties, there have been no injuries, as you well know.”

Finland, he added, will be able to evacuate the troops in one day if necessary, but the withdrawal has not been requested by a single member of the Parliament’s Defence Committee.

“The acute situation is now over, but the overall situation isn’t giving us a breather.”

Kanerva said Finland, as well as all other participants, will make their decision on participation and withdrawal in close co-operation with the other participants. The country, however, remains committed to contributing to stabilising the conflict-ravaged region.

“We have to try to do everything we can to alleviate tensions and facilitate appropriate societal development in a constructive way. We’re still in the midst of change. There’s naturally no message of relief to send, but maybe we’ll know more after tomorrow’s meeting at the EU Committee on Foreign Affairs.”

He estimated that if the international community decided to withdraw from Iraq, it would consolidate the position of Iran in the Middle East. The withdrawal would also undermine the ongoing effort to combat IS.

“Ten years of work would literally vanish into the sand in the fight against Isis. Everyone knows that it’d strengthen extremist activities in the region, aggravate the situation in the Middle East and undermine the chances of moderate powers to stabilise the security situation,” said Kanerva.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Source: Uusi Suomi

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