Saturday, September 8, 2012

Did the Canadian Government Act Harshly and Imprudently in Closing its Iranian Embassy?

Yazd and Jame Mosque, Iran
In a surprising move (because of no concrete incident), the current Canadian Government closed the Canadian embassy in Iran, and expelled Iranian diplomats from Canada. In terms of diplomacy, such closings are a last resort because it cuts off communication and information from being collected on the ground.

The Canadian government is comprised of elected members of the Conservative Party of Canada. This party has made it very clear that it is biased to Israeli interests. For example, Prime Minister Harper says he will support Israel even it hurts Canada politically: PM's Statement

Canadians need to decide whether or not the sever of diplomatic relations between Canada and Iran is in their interests. Canadians who travel to Iran and need assistance will now have no Canadian embassy presence to assist them. The image of Canada as a biased, rash broker in terms of Israeli interests may not be in Canada's best interests. Two Canadians on death row in Iran may fare worse now that diplomatic ties have been severed.

The same Canadian government tried to get the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to have a moment of silence at the 2012 Olympics for the 1972 Munich Olympics massacre, but the IOC refused stating that the Olympics is not a political event. The FDA does not think the Olympics should be used for political purposes, but they often are such as the boycotts of the 1976 Montreal Olympics.

In terms of democracy, closing off communication (such as severing diplomatic relations) is often antithetical to the principle of democracy and freedom of expression.

The FDA strives to be neutral and objective on all issues. This includes issues pertaining to the Middle East region, which has been the scene of intense conflict for centuries. The FDA’s neutrality is not to be distorted or misconstrued to imply covert support or non-support of any ethnic group, religion, or nationality.

FDA Report on the Iranian Electoral System


Commentary:

Canada closes Iran embassy, expels remaining Iranian diplomats
By Bruce Campion-Smith
Ottawa Bureau Chief Toronto Star

OTTAWA—Canada has suspended diplomatic ties with Iran, plunging relations between the two nations to their worst level in years and raising fears about the fate of Canadians on death row in the Middle East nation.

In a surprise move Friday, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced that Canada was closing its embassy in Tehran and expelling Iranian diplomats from Canada as it formally declared Iran a state sponsor of terrorism.

Baird branded Iran as the “most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.”

He cited a list of long-standing beefs with the regime in Tehran as justification for the abrupt move, including Iranian military assistance to Syria and its refusal to comply with United Nations resolutions on its nuclear program.

“It routinely threatens the existence of Israel and engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide; it is among the world’s worst violators of human rights,” Baird told reporters in Vladivostok, Russia.

Pressed on why Canada decided to act now on grievances it’s had for months and years, Baird said only, “There’s just a long list of reasons why we’re coming to this decision.”...

Yet the sudden decision immediately provoked speculation that the long-discussed military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities by Israel and others was imminent, a suggestion that Baird’s office later sought to downplay.

The decision was announced after a skeleton staff of about eight Canadian foreign affairs employees had already returned home from Iran. There are about 17 workers in the Iranian embassy and they’ve been given five days to leave Canada, a foreign affairs official said.

The federal government is also urging Canadians to avoid travel to Iran.

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign ministry, Ramin Mehmanparast, called Canada’s decision “hasty and extreme” and said that Iran would soon respond, the semi-official Fars news agency reported.

But the diplomatic ousting won applause in other quarters, including from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“I congratulate Canada’s (Prime Minister Stephen) Harper for showing leadership and making a bold move that sends a clear message to Iran and the world,” said Netanyahu, who had discussed his concerns about Iran with Harper during a March visit to Ottawa...

But the suspension of ties does raise fears that two Canadians awaiting execution in Iranian prison — Hamid Ghassemi-Shall and Saeed Malekpour — could be at risk amid the diplomatic jousting.

Relations between Ottawa and Tehran have soured since the death of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in 2003 in Evin prison. But Friday’s move underscores a sharp deterioration of relations in recent months. In late April, Ottawa closed the visa office in the Tehran embassy, a decision Iran called “unfriendly.”

The latest move also comes amid accusations that officials working out of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa have been attempting to infiltrate the Iranian community in Canada.

“These activities using cultural organizations, student groups, as fronts have seen to be aimed at infiltrating the Iranian diaspora and neutralizing opposition to the regime,” said Payam Akhavan, a law professor at McGill University and founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre.

“Many of us involved in human rights activities have had to contend with the infiltration of our community by individuals who are effectively agents of the regime,” he said in an interview Friday.

Still, he joined other experts in questioning whether Ottawa’s decision to cut ties altogether was the right one, saying it would leave Canada in the dark about developments in the country.

“I would have thought that an outright closure may have not necessarily been the best option as opposed to a very serious downgrading of relations,” he said. “I think it’s important to isolate the regime, but at the same time, it’s important to leave some lines of communication open.”

Still, many others were left scratching their heads, wondering what prompted Canada to act now.

“I’m really puzzled . . . I don’t see the closure benefitting anyone,” said Maziar Bahari, an Iranian-Canadian journalist who was held for 118 days in a Tehran prison in 2009.

Unless Canadian diplomats were in imminent danger or federal officials had fresh evidence of wrongdoing by Iranian diplomats in Canada, Bahari said he can’t see any reason for the move.

“The fact that the Iranian government is a nasty regime, we’ve known that for the past 33 years,” he said in an interview.

And he cautioned that the withdrawal of diplomats will impede Canada’s ability to help the Canadians on death row, even though Iran does not recognize their dual citizenship...

Houchang Hassan-Yari, an expert on the Middle East with Queen’s University and the Royal Military College, predicted a long period of diplomatic chilliness between the two countries as a result of Friday’s actions.

“It will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the Canadian government to go back and re-establish relations in Iran in the absence of any tangible move by the Iranian government in those areas of concerns,” he said in an interview.

Canada closes embassy in Iran, expels Iranian diplomats
Baird says Iran viewed as world's 'most significant threat to global peace and security'
By Laura Payton, CBC News

....Former diplomat Ken Taylor, who served as Canada's ambassador in Tehran during the 1979 Iranian revolution, says having a presence on the ground in a country is important. If the country's government won't interact, he said, there's still intelligence to gather.

"As a diplomat, I think you never give up. Of course, if it's a breach of diplomatic protocol, if in fact your diplomats are threatened, if in fact a country's conduct is not acceptable, this may proceed from persona non grata to the closing of the embassy," Taylor said.

"Obviously, though, the Canadian government is sending a message. Whether or not this is the best means to send a message is of course up to the government's cabinet. It's more than just a practical or technical severance of the relationship," he said....


Question for Readers:

Is it in Canada's best interests for the current government to be biased towards some countries in the Middle East over others, rather than neutral?

1 comment:

  1. In closing the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa, we see the double standards the Canadian govt is adhering to. The double standards in this case are they closed the Iranian Embassy in ottawa because of the nuclear program they are building and human right abuses. On the pretext of human right abuses which other country is the Canadian govt going to target by closing its embassy in ottawa will Cuba be the next country to be targeted because of their tough views on foreign investment and the so called human rights abuses. Need I say that many of the so called democratic allies have committed more acts of human rights abuses and yet one does not hear about their embassies being closed down why the double standard is it because those so called countries do not believe in being ruled and enslaved by corporate greed.

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