By Niaz Salimi
It was a matter of shock and disbelief for many Canadians to listen to Foreign Minister John Baird, on September 7, announcing full termination of diplomatic relationship with Iran, complete with the closure of both embassies, while in Moscow. The speed of such unprecedented decision caused serious concerns at home and abroad.
While many seasoned diplomats and Middle East experts were scratching their heads and trying to make sense of this unpredicted and drastic action by the Harper government, it won immediate support of the Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who praised Harper’s leadership and congratulated him for “sending a clear message to Iran.”
While this message clearly exposes the type of beneficiaries of this decision, many—including the past two Canadian Ambassadors to Iran—warned against the impact of it. John Mundy, who was expelled from Iran in 2007, expressed his concern about the possibility of a military attack to CBC; Michel de Salaberry, in an interview with the Iranian-Canadian Community Council, stressed that the suspension of diplomatic relations and the expulsion of Iranian diplomats from Canada was not a wise decision and eliminates Canada’s ability of effective engagement.
Predictably, this decision caused a huge debate within the Iranian-Canadian community and some expressed their support, mostly for the closure of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa. However, while a number of Iranian-Canadians are not willing or allowed to visit their home country, the majority of the over 300,000 members of this community have reasons to be concerned and oppose this decision.
Baird advised Canadians to avoid traveling to Iran due to safety issues, but this will harm tens of thousands of Iranian-Canadians with immediate family members in Iran.
Over the past two weeks the Harper government and especially Baird got very creative and started providing new reasons for their actions. In a meeting on September 18 with a small group of handpicked members of the Iranian-Canadian community, Harper claimed that the main reason for severing diplomatic relationship with Iran was the regime’s gross human rights violations.
Harper assured the group that from now on the Canadian government will pay more attention to the issue of human rights in Iran and will increase their efforts in support of Iranian people. But how you can have any relevance to the situation after you shut down all the gates of negotiation, leaving only a military solution?
It’s clear that Harper’s concern is not the people of Iran but a war against them, and the best way to help people in Iran is to stop the war. October 6 is a day of action against the war on Iran. For details of the Toronto march, visit nowar.ca.