Laudably, the Government of Canada has unambiguously identified Iran as being a primary threat to international peace and security. Accordingly, Canada has adopted a series of sanctions against the Islamic Republic, including the invocation of the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA).
Despite these important moves, Canada’s stance on the Iranian file under the Harper government remains incomplete. Canada’s stance vis-à-vis Tehran focuses almost exclusively on the threat posed by the latter’s nuclear weapons program.
Without question, the threat of a nuclear Iran is an extremely serious one. Beyond the possible use of such weapons, an Iran with weapons of mass destruction would provide a nuclear umbrella under which organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad — all listed as terrorist organizations in Canada — could operate in the Middle East.
An Iran with nuclear weapons could hold the Israeli-Palestinian peace process hostage. It would cause a shift in allegiance from many Gulf states from the Western-led camp to Iran’s revisionist camp. It could spark a nuclear arms race in one of the world’s most volatile regions.
A nuclear Iran would represent an existential threat for the Middle East’s only liberal democracy. And it would send the concept of “non-proliferation” — peacefully enforced by international institutions — to the dustbin of history.
Liberal MP Irwin Cotler — chair of the Responsibility to Prevent Coalition — has identified the Iranian threat to be in fact fourfold. In addition to the nuclear threat, there are threats posed by Iran’s state-sanctioned incitement to genocide, its funding of international terrorist groups, and its domestic human rights abuses.
In a recent op-ed, Foreign Minister John Baird extensively cited the genocidal statements made by Iran’s leaders. Despite this leaving Iran in standing violation of the United Nations Genocide Convention, his government has yet to adhere to Canada’s international legal obligations as a signatory to said convention.
In an era of global inequality and environmental change, mass atrocities across the world — including genocide — threaten to spark cross-border violence, spread pandemics, and establish safe havens for terrorists. If Canada is to advance a vision in which mass atrocities no longer take place, it is essential that its government takes action against Iran’s genocidal rhetoric at the UN and before the International Court of Justice.
Regarding the final two aspects of the Iranian threat, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is at the forefront of both Tehran’s funding of international terrorism and the domestic repression of its citizens.
The IRGC’s funding of terrorist groups goes beyond terrorist acts committed in the Middle East. Hezbollah, acting on IRGC orders in 1994, carried out a bombing that killed 85 at Buenos Aires’s Jewish community centre. And with the help of the IRGC to crack down on anti-regime dissidents, Iran’s dictatorial regime put six hundred of its own citizens to death between January and November of last year.
The Liberal Party’s policy has been clear on this front: Canada should designate the IRGC as a terrorist group. Canada’s Conservative government needs to take this action immediately.
Despite the significant integration of our two economies, Canada does not have to wait for the United States’ approval to act to defend our interests. On one file, it took the Harper government six years and a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline before it realized that it was fundamentally in Canada’s interest to seek significantly closer economic ties with China and other Asian markets. On the Iranian file, we don’t have to wait for Washington to tell us that “all options are on the table.”
Canada must take concrete action against the Iranian regime on the fronts described above and advance a vision for a world in which liberal democracies fight terrorism, mass atrocities, and human-rights abuses more openly and more effectively. Such a vision advances both Canadian interests and Canadian values.
It’s time for Canadian leadership on the world stage.
Zach Paikin was a candidate for National Policy Chair at the Liberal Party of Canada’s 2012 biennial convention.
Originally published by The Opposition. http://theopposition.ca/2012/02/08/iran-canadian-leadership-needed/
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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