The top Republican leader in the U.S. House of Representatives says Iran is solely responsible for the escalation of tensions that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blames for the death of 57 Canadians.
Kevin McCarthy, the U.S. House minority leader, was asked at a press conference in Washington Tuesday to respond to Trudeau’s remarks in an interview with Global News.
Host Dawna Friesen asked Trudeau Monday if he believed the 176 passengers who perished after Iran shot down a Ukrainian airliner last Wednesday were “collateral damage” in tensions between Iran and the United States.
Watch the PM’s answer around the :30 mark below. Story continues after video.
“I think if there were no tensions, if there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families,” Trudeau said.
“This is something that happens when you have conflict and war. Innocents bear the brunt of it. And it is a reminder why all of us need to work so hard on de-escalation, on moving forward to reduce tensions and find a pathway that doesn’t involve further conflict and killing.”
“Trudeau is right about what Iran has been doing. And Iran is wrong.”
Iran has admitted to shooting down Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 shortly after its takeoff in Tehran, with its military saying the plane was mistaken for a hostile target. The plane’s downing came hours after Iran launched missile attacks at two military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.
McCarthy told reporters Tuesday that the reason 176 innocent people died is, simply, “because Iran shot a missile and shot down a commercial liner.” He noted that Iran shot down a U.S. drone last June and that an Iran-backed group is believed to be responsible for the death of a U.S. contractor in Iraq in December.
“Trudeau is right about what Iran has been doing,” he said. “And Iran is wrong.”
The reporter noted the prime minister did not specifically mention Iran or the U.S. in his comments.
Trudeau also told Global News that Canada was not given a “heads up” about the Jan. 3 U.S. airstrike on Soleimani. Shortly after the killing, the Canadian military temporarily moved soldiers from Iraq to Kuwait due to security concerns.
Trudeau said that while Canada would have “obviously” liked to have been warned the U.S. was targeting Soleimani, “sometimes countries take actions without informing their allies.”
Asked if Canada should have been given a warning about the U.S. action, McCarthy did not give an answer. Instead, he said U.S. President Donald Trump was right to order the killing of Soleimani, who commanded proxy forces outside Iran and was responsible for the deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq.
“So yes, the president made the right decision. And Trudeau did not have to mention Iran because the facts are purely on Iran,” he said.
There’s “no blame” that should be directed towards the U.S. for the tragedy, McCarthy added.
“There’s no doubt where the blame lies.”
Trump and his top officials have said the killing of Solemani was necessary to prevent “imminent” attacks on Americans, a claim that Democrats have called into question.
Trudeau careful with words
But Trudeau has been careful not to directly criticize Trump’s actions. At a press conference in Ottawa last week, where he revealed that intelligence had indicated Iran downed the plane with a surface-to-air missile, Trudeau was asked if he thought the U.S. was “at least partially responsible” for the devastating events.
“I think it is too soon to be drawing conclusions or assigning blame or responsibility in whatever proportions,” he said at the time, adding that his focus was on supporting grieving families and pushing for answers through a credible investigation.
At another news conference on Saturday, Trudeau was asked if he shared the views expressed by Iran that the U.S. is responsible for raising tensions in the region in the first place.
“The reality is there have been significant tensions in that region for a long time, and what we are calling for now is a de-escalation to ensure that there are no more tragic accidents or loss of civilian life, as well as moving forward to the peace and stability that is deserved by everyone in the region,” he said.
With files from The Canadian Press