I’ve told people for years that Canada should break off diplomatic relations with Iran. Well, it looks like the powers-that-be have finally come to the same conclusion. Earlier today, the Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird, announced that Canada was breaking-off diplomatic relations with Iran. Canada has pulled its diplomats from Iran and has given Iranian diplomats 5 days to leave the country. In addition Canada announced that it was naming Iran as state sponsor of terrorism under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, stripping Iran of sovereign immunity from lawsuits in Canadian courts. It’s about time.
In his announcement, Baird described Iran “as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today” listing its support for the Assad regime in Syria, its refusal to comply with UN resolutions dealing with its nuclear weapons program, it’s racist and genocidal policy towards Israel, its appalling human rights record and its lengthy history of supporting international terrorist organizations. All of which provides ample reason for cuting off diplomatic relations with Iran.
From my perspective, though, Canada should have cut off diplomatic relations with Iran years ago for one reason, and one reason only: the torture, rape and murder of Canadian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi by Iranian officials. And we should have done it to send a message to Iran, and other third-world dictatorships, that if you torture, rape or kill Canadian citizens, there will be consequences. Canada, of course, isn’t the United States. We don’t have the military or economic clout to to threaten dictatorships (although it’s easy to forget that Canada is a G8 and G20 economy and shouldn’t be dismissed entirely). We do, however, have a fair bit of moral clout on the world stage, and we should use it to condemn, denigrate and humiliate oppressive tyrannies on the world’s stage.
Ah, though, I can hear it now, “Bob, you hypocrite, what about the United States and Omar Khadr? What about Israel”. What about them? When those countries torture, rape and kill Canadian citizens in the same circumstances as Zahra Kazemi, I imagine we’ll have a fair bit to say about it, and rightly so. Since they don’t (being liberal democracies governed by the rule of law and all), it’s an academic discussion.
“But what about China and its human rights record, or Russia or Saudi Arabia, should we cut off relations with them?” Well, no, for two reasons. First, while the Chinese government (or its counterparts in Russia or Saudi Arabia) has done many an evil thing over the years, these days it’s arguably a fraction as recklessly evil as the Iranian regime. When China starts threatening to nuke Japan, we’ll talk, but until that happens… Second, and more importantly, no we’re not going to break off diplomatic relations with China because we’re not stupid.
Diplomacy is the art of advancing our principles and interests abroad. When we’re dealing with a country that matter, like China, and our principles and interests collide, well, we have to balance them off against one another (and let’s give the current Canadian government its due, it has been far more aggressive in pushing Canada’s principles in China than its predecessors, who took every opportunity to slobber on cue in Beijing). But China matters to us. Iran doesn’t. When dealing with ass-nozzle countries that don’t matter, countries in which, let’s be honest, we have few interests, that conflict disappears. In those countries where material interests are absent, diplomacy is the art of advancing our principles, period. And since a key, if not fundamental, principal of our foreign policy is to protect the welfare of our citizens, our message to those countries has to be “mistreat our citizens and we’ll make you our bitch”.
The shame, of course, it’s that it has taken us 9 years to cut off diplomatic relations with Iran. The minute the kangaroo court in Tehran (and is there any other kind in Iran?) failed to hold anyone responsible for Zahra Kazemi’s death we should have given the Iranian ambassador his walking papers and told him – quite publicly – that he and his colleagues were welcome to return to Canada when, and only when, the murderous savages that pass as a government in Iran had been replaced by people who weren’t psychotic thugs (in fact, the title to this post would be the general gist of the press-release). Then we should have spent the last 9 years taking every opportunity on the world stage to remind the world that Iran’s government consists of savages who torture, rape and kill innocent woman and men (Sadly, Zahra Kazemi is not alone in being a victim of the Iranian regime). That might not have had an impact on the Iran regime (although people fail to appreciate the impact of foreign delegitimization of totalitarian regime on the stability of dictatorships), but at least the next time some third-world tin pot scum rounds up a Canadian citizen, given the certainty of Canada being a pain in their ass on the global stage, they might think twice before killing them.
Still, now that the government has done the right thing, it would be churlish of me to complain, so good for them.