For most Canadians, the Canadian government’s decision to cut off diplomatic relations with Iran is a no-brainer. Iran does, after all, have a long record of abusing the human rights of its own citizens and sponsoring terrorism internationally. It steadfastly refuses to comply with its treaty obligations in respect of its nuclear program and is widely (and credibly) believed to be trying to build nuclear weapons. It has repeatedly and publicly called for a genocidal war against Israel, famously threatening to “wipe” it “off the map” and has recently supported the odious Assad regime in the ongoing murder of Syrian civilians. And, of course, as I reminded readers earlier, members of its security apparatus tortured, raped and murdered a Canada citizen – Zahra Kazemi – an atrocity for which no one has ever been brought to justice. Need I go on?
Apparently, though, that isn’t enough for Tony Burman, former editor-in-chief of the CBC News and now a professor of journalism at Rye-high. No, in his mind the only possible explanation for Canada’s “abrupt action” against Iran is the “Harper government’s outsourcing of Canada’s Middle East policy to Jerusalem is now complete.” Yes, that’s right folks, our government works for Israel, at least in the fevered mind of Tony Burman.
Now, while nutjob “jews control the world” conspiracy theories aren’t uncommon, they’re typically found on yellowing pages of old copies of Der Stürmer or in the seedier parts of the internet. You typically don’t see them they in the op-ed page of the Toronto Star. And indeed, Burman’s piece is so ridiculous that it could be read as a brilliantly subtle parody of that sort of lunatic thinking were it not for the fact that Burman writes often on the Middle-East in his capacity as a (purportedly) serious journalist.
But, you might ask, what’s the basis for his view that Canada’s foreign policy is dictated by its “new foreign minister in Jerusalem”? Well, actually, not much (certainly, he never explains what, if anything, Israel might gain from Canada’s decision). Amidst much hand-waiving his conclusion appears to be that there is no other explanation for the timing of Canada’s decision: “There is little else to conclude from Canada’s unwise decision to move unilaterally on Iran at this moment”. I suppose, in the absence of a reasonable explanation, any old unreasonable one will suffice. Is that what they teach at Rye-high these days?
But, if, Mr. Burman can’t explain the timing of Canada’s decision, he is trying that hard. Almost 6 months ago Canada enacted the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which permits victims of state-sponsored terrorism to bring actions in Canadian courts against the sponsoring states. I’ve mentioned that Iran is a notorious sponsor of terrorism, haven’t I? That legislation strips a country listed as a state sponsor of terror of sovereign immunity in Canadian courts, exposing it to lawsuits brought by its victims. Crucially, that legislation requires that the government create a list of state sponsors of terrorism within 6 months of its enactment. That 6 month timeline, Mr. Burman, expires next week.
Now, does anyone care to guess what Iran’s reaction would be if Canada, quite accurately and correctly, listed it as a state sponsor of terror and stripped it of sovereign immunity? Yeah, it would probably organize a mob and torch the Canadian embassy in Tehran – you know, like it did with the British Embassy last year. That might explain John Baird’s repeated references, in announcing the decision to cut off diplomatic relations, to concern for the safety of our diplomats and Iran’s less than stellar record in protecting the integrity of foreign embassies Rather than leave our diplomats to the less than tender mercy of Iranian thugs (I’ve mentioned Zahra Kazemi, haven’t I?), on the same day it announced that it was listing Iran as a sponsor of terrorism, Canada decided to pull its diplomats out of Iran. Anyone else need an explanation of the timing of Canada’s decision? This isn’t rocket science Mr. Burman.
Then again, there’s also the repeated allegations over the summer by Iranian pro-democracy activists in Canada that Iran was using its embassy (in violation of international law) to spy on, or harass them and their families – notably from the human rights activist Nazanin Afshin-Jam, the wife of Defense Minister Peter McKay. Nah, the use of Iran’s embassy to harass Canadian citizens, INCLUDING THE WIFE OF A SENIOR CABINET MINISTER, that couldn’t have anything to do with it. Must be the Jews.
Moreover, while Mr. Burman may dismiss this as “a meaningless poke in the eye that will only be dismissed by Tehran”, he should know that Canada isn’t alone in poking Iran in the eye these days. As I reported earlier this week, at the non-aligned movement summing in Tehran last week, both UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Egypt’s new (democratically elected) president Mohamed Morsi, may pointed criticism of Iran on its home turf, touching-on many of the same issues cited by John Baird – human rights, terrorism, Syrian, and nuclear weapons. By all account the Iranians were royally pissed. Maybe Ban-Ki Moon and Mohammed Morsi are taking directions from Jerusalem too…
In short, there’s no need to resort to Mr. Burman’s lunatic conspiracy theory to explain Canada’s decisions to break-off diplomatic relations with Iran. The decisions itself is an obvious one in light of Iran’s repeated and egregious crimes and certain is a decision that is consistent both with Canada’s values and interests, and the past practice of the Conservative government of taking principled positions in our foreign policy. Moreover, to Mr. Burman’s alleged point, the timing is readily explained by Canada’s decision to list Iran as a state sponsor of terror under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act. And it’s a decision that’s consistent with the recent stances taken by both Egypt and the UN Secretary-General to humiliate Iran on the world-stage. In short, nothing to see here Mr. Burman.
For a man with an otherwise respectable journalist career, it’s embarassing to see Mr. Burman write this sort of nonsense (and puzzling that the Star would publish it). Mind you, the journalism school at Rye-high has a history of producing would-be defenders of the Iranian regime. Regular readers of Mark Steyn may recall his infamous exchange with Professor John (the “Journalism Doctor“) Miller, the former chair of the Rye-high journalism school, on the subject of journalistic ethics and the Ayatollah Khomenei’s views on underage sex and bestiality (I heartily urge to you to read that exchange – Steyn thoroughly, and hilariously, rogers the bejesus out of the “Journalism Doctor”). Could be there’s something in the water at Rye-high.