In my column for the National Post, I detail why Canada severed diplomatic relations with Iran.
On Friday, Canada severed its last remaining diplomatic relations with Iran, withdrawing all Canadian representatives from Tehran and expelling all remaining Iranian diplomats from Ottawa.
Relations between the two countries have been bad since the 2003 detention, torture, rape and murder of Iranian-Canadian photographer Zahra Kazemi. The Harper government has supported economic sanctions against Iran and spoken out vigorously against Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
But this final step, what explains it? The official reasons are studiously vague.
Traveling in Vladivostock, Russia, Foreign Minister John Baird gave this statement to reporters:
“Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today. Under the circumstances, Canada can no longer maintain a diplomatic presence in Tehran.… There’s just a long list of reasons why we’re coming to this decision.”
The mullah regime in Iran opened by an attack on the very idea of diplomatic norms, the seizure of hostages inside the U.S. embassy in Tehran in 1979.
As the world tightens its sanctions against Iran, all governments have to worry about the security of their diplomats, in a country that respects no rule of international comity.
It’s also true that Canada has led the way to forcing the isolation of Iran – and a new round of sanctions may soon be coming, this time targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The risk is real that when the Iranian regime is pressed, it will lash out at anyone within its reach.
Iran does not respect Canadian passports or the new citizenship rights of Iranian-Canadians, not in 2003 and not now. An Iranian-Canadian, Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, has been sentenced to death in Iran on charges of espionage. Hamid’s brother Alborz died in Iranian police custody in 2010. The regime scooped up the two brothers when they visited their sick mother in Iran and refused to allow the Canadian government contact with these prisoners.
Nor will the Iranian embassy in Ottawa be much missed.
Iranian embassies in other countries have a long history of acting as bases of espionage and terrorism against their host nations.