Canada’s Extremely Worthwhile Iran Initiative
by CLAUDIA ROSETT
September 10, 2012
Photo caption: The door of the Iranian embassy in Ottawa is shown Friday Sept. 7, 2012. The Canadian government says it is shutting its embassy in Tehran and severing diplomatic relations amid recent attacks on foreign diplomats in Iran. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Friday that the Canadian embassy in Tehran will close immediately and Iranian diplomats in Canada have been given five days to leave. He says he's worried about the safety of diplomats in Tehran following recent attacks on the British embassy there. He's also warning Canadians to avoid traveling to Iran. Photo: The Canadian Press, Fred Chartrand / AP
Among journalists, there's an old joke:
What's the world's most boring headline?
"Worthwhile Canadian Initiative."
Except, never mind the old jokes, Canada's foreign policy initiatives are getting awfully interesting these days - and in a good way. Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird just announced that Canada is closing its embassy in Tehran and kicking Iran's diplomats out of Canada. Why? Because, explained Baird, "Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."
Among Canada's reasons:
The Iranian regime is providing increasing military assistance to the Assad regime; it refuses to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program; it routinely threatens the existence of Israel and engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide; it is among the world's worst violators of human rights; and it shelters and materially supports terrorist groups, requiring the Government of Canada to formally list Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act.
The Canadian government says that all Canadian diplomatic staff have already left Iran, and all Iranian diplomats in Ottawa have been told to clear out within five days.
What a bracing contrast to the recent gathering in Tehran of the 120-member erstwhile Non-Aligned Movement, headlined by the attendance of United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and more than two dozen heads of state.
For that matter, what a refreshingly sane contrast to the current scene in the U.S., where in the heart of Manhattan Iran maintains a large mission to the UN - and where U.S. taxpayers will again be footing the bill to ensure the safety of Iran's pro-genocide president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, when he travels to New York later this month for his eighth consecutive propaganda tour and center-stage rant at the annual opening of the UN General Assembly.
It has long been the position of the U.S. government that however unsavory it may be to have Iranian officials jetting in to New York, and Iranian diplomats nesting in midtown Manhattan, Iran as a member of the UN has full rights to all the usual privileges, immunities and access that come with a UN seat. That has not changed, despite the Iranian regime's terrorist record, genocidal threats, mockery of UN sanctions and the arrest at JFK airport last year of Iranian-American Mansour Arbabsiar, in connection with an alleged Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador in Washington by bombing a popular restaurant - an arrest that dovetailed with Ahmadinejad's 2011 trip to the annual opening of the UN General Assembly.
Diplomatic courtesies have their place, but they should also have their limits. Iran itself is in flagrant violation not only of UN sanctions, but of the UN charter itself. The U.S. government may place high value on honoring its commitments to the UN, but what happens when a UN member state exploits its seat to monstrous ends? Last I heard, America is still a sovereign state, and it is ultimately America's decision who gets to visit or reside within our shores. Canada has just stepped up on the side of the Free World, shuttered its embassy in Tehran and told Iran's regime to get its official tentacles out of Ottawa. A terrific initiative, and the kind of example that other leaders of the Free World would do well to follow.
Claudia Rosett is a journalist in residence with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.