‘Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.” With that blunt statement, Canada recently cut its remaining diplomatic ties with Iran, shutting its embassy in Tehran and expelling all Iranian diplomats in Canada.
Canada is renowned for its commitment to diplomacy and international engagement. In 1979, it kept its embassy in Tehran open after the attack on the US embassy there by thugs loyal to the new regime of Ayatollah Khomeini. That enabled Canada to save six imperiled Americans, who later escaped from Iran using Canadian passports. So Canada’s decision to finally sever its ties now is a striking gesture — one that should heighten the pressure on Iran to stop its push toward nuclear weapons.
Canada’s bill of particulars goes further. Its foreign minister, John Baird, itemized some of those offenses: “The Iranian regime is providing increasing military assistance to the Assad regime [in Syria]; it refuses to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to 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; and it shelters and materially supports terrorist groups.” Moreover, said Baird, the Iranian government shows “blatant disregard” for its legal obligation to protect foreign diplomats. The menace that poses to foreign personnel was underscored by recent attacks on US missions in Libya, Egypt, and Yemen.
Canada’s move hasn’t ended hope that diplomacy can defuse the international crisis over Iran’s nuclear program. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday that the United States still views sanctions and negotiations as “by far the best approach” to keep Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Meanwhile, international sanctions are taking a toll on Iran’s economy, which is losing billions of dollars in oil revenues. And in recent months there have been three rounds of high-level nuclear talks between Iran and major world powers.
By cutting its ties now, Canada has reinforced the message that intransigence on the nuclear front will only lead to greater isolation.