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Canadian Foreign Policy and Iran


It appears that the US is planning an attack against Iran and Ottawa is pitching in to help.

Earlier this year, then Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay said, “Canada is deeply concerned with the direction that Iran is headed. The regime in Tehran cannot be allowed to acquire nuclear weapons.” McKay’s comment was made in Israel, a regional rival of Iran that already possesses nuclear weapons.

Referring to “genocidal” Iran a few months later, Jason Kenny (a federal cabinet minister) told a pro-Israel conference that Canada “will pursue every possible avenue in concert with our allies to ensure that [Iran] does not come into possession of nuclear weapons, which could unleash unimaginable violence.” Kenny concluded that, “He [Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad] must be stopped by the civilized world.”

Later MacKay released a statement claiming that “maintaining a relationship with Iran tests the bounds of diplomacy?peace is Canada’s goal and we support the United States’ effort to engage all regional partners in supporting the Iraqi government’s attempts to bring safety and security to the area.”

Canada has also worked to de-legitimate Iran at the UN, putting forward a resolution condemning Iran’s human rights record. In an embarrassing outcome for Canadian officials, the motion barely passed (77-75). Iran’s UN representative responded to the resolution by saying, “Canada and other sponsors of this resolution [against Iran] are themselves implicated in serious rights violations for which they must be held accountable.” He specifically cited Canada’s horrendous treatment of Aboriginal people.

Canada has also been accused of spying for the US. Late last year, members of the Iranian parliament claimed the Canadian embassy in Tehran was a “den of spies.”

While progressives should oppose Iran’s human rights violations, its role in Iraq and its desire to develop nuclear energy or weapons, it is hypocritical for the Canadian government to use this as a justification for supporting a US attack.

Canada hasn’t opposed the US invasion/occupation of Iraq, which is certainly a war crime under international law, and the main cause of the current instability in that country. In fact, Canadian forces provided logistical support for the American-led invasion and relieved US troops from Afghanistan so they could redeploy to Iraq. In addition, Canadian companies continue to supply armaments for the US war.

At least the hypocrisy has been consistent.

Throughout the 1970s, the Canadian government’s Defence Programs Bureau had a representative in Tehran, which sold about $60 million worth of arms to Iran during the decade. This was during the same period that Amnesty International reported “no country in the world has a worse record in human rights than Iran.” The Shah’s brutal SAVAK intelligence forces killed tens of thousands, which prompted no condemnations from Canadian officials.

Nor did Canada protest when in 1953 the US and Britain overthrew Mohammed Mossadegh, Iran’s elected prime minister. Instead, it followed the lead of the UK and the US in doing business with a dictator and Canada opened an embassy six years later. By the time the Shah was overthrown in 1979, there were 850 Canadians in Iran (along with thousands of Americans), most working for foreign owned oilrigs, power projects etc. Not happy with the Shah’s departure, Canada closed its embassy in 1980 and did not reopen it until 1988.

Canadian hypocrisy is on full display regarding Iran’s drive to develop nuclear energy or atomic weapons. When the Shah was in power, Canada was prepared to sell Iran nuclear reactors. More broadly, after selling (or attempting to sell) nuclear reactors or uranium to at least 25 countries from Argentina to Romania, Canada has no right to criticize a country’s desire for nuclear power.

Some say that Iran’s push to get the bomb dates back to 1974 when India exploded a nuclear bomb. Canada provided the reactor that India, Iran’s regional competitor, used to develop the bomb. And Canada aided another of Iran’s regional rivals, Pakistan, in its successful program to build nuclear weapons.

In fact, Canadian uranium from Great Bear Lake was used in the only two nuclear bombs ever to be dropped on a human population. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki Prime Minister Mackenzie King declared: “It gives me pleasure to announce that Canadian scientists played an important role, having been intimately connected, in an efficient manner, to this great scientific development.” By 1959, Canada had sold $1.5 billion worth of uranium to the US bomb program. Today, Canada is the world’s largest exporter of uranium.

If Canada is to have any credibility regarding nuclear non-proliferation perhaps it should begin by getting its own house in order. Then, it would make sense to criticize its allies when they build weapons of mass destruction or break international laws and treaties. Only after doing all that would Ottawa have the authority to condemn Iran’s nuclear program.

Yves Engler is the author of two books: Canada in Haiti: Waging War on the Poor Majority (with Anthony Fenton) and Playing Left Wing: From Rink Rat to Student Radical. Both books are published by RED/Fernwood and available at www.turning.ca

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