Opinion – Is closing the embassy the solution to the problem?: the current state of Canadian-Iranian relations

By: Chris Burke

The recent decision by the Harper government to close down its embassy in Iran has left many political commentators baffled as to the motive for the decision.  The government maintains its position that Iran is the most significant threat to world peace, apparently a justification to stop making any effort at diplomatic outreach.  I will touch on the claim that Iran is such at the end of this post, first I want to assume that the statement is true in order to ask, “Is closing the embassy the solution to the problem?”

Assume, for a moment, that Iran really does represent the threat that Canada (and most of the West) claims it does.  What benefit comes from cutting off diplomatic ties and isolating the country?  There have been whispers that Israel is gearing up to bomb Iran over fears of Iran’s nuclear development, and that closing the embassy is a way to get Canada’s diplomats out of there, but this reasoning is suspect.  Israel has been speaking about bombing Iran for the past year.  Why close the embassy now when Israel has made no significant changes to its plans? Unless our government knows something about Israel the rest of the world doesn’t.  While Canada is unarguably a staunch, and dogmatic, supporter of Israel, the strength of our influence doesn’t seem great enough for Israel to be telling Canada something that it wouldn’t also let the U.S. know of.  The idea also borders on conspiracy, a sinister plot, and I’m not interested in going down that road.

Relations between Canada and Iran are no doubt strained, but it appears that the Harper government needs to go right back to conflict resolution 101.  The countries where relations are strained warrant the most need for an embassy.  It is the role of diplomats, through carefully thought out wording, to negotiate and set out a course of action for two nations to reconcile their differences.  Canada is doing the exact opposite of that.  Instead, they hold press conferences stating that Iran is the greatest threat to world peace.  Our Prime Minister has made references to Iran’s leadership as being made up of religious fanatics.  Of course, that may describe certain Iranian officials, but what about the Ayatollah who said nuclear weapons are against Islam? This brings me to the final point I want to make on this issue: is Iran the threat Canada has made it out to be?

One criticism that was levelled against Iran by Canada is its support for the Assad government in Syria.  From our perspective this appears to be evil supporting evil, but from their end it’s a friend supporting a friend.  With the fall of the Assad government looking more and more likely as the West backs the rebels (who are hardly the freedom fighters they are portrayed as), Iran is quickly running out of friends in the Middle East.  It has been debated as to whether Iran is building a nuclear weapon or not.  I will, for the sake of the argument, assume that this is their intent regardless of what is publicly stated.  It’s a nefarious goal, at first glance.  Now consider Iran’s situation.  They are quickly becoming the last power in the Middle East that opposes the goals of the West in that region.  Israel, a country that does have nuclear weapons, has been threatening to attack Iran.  Reasonable thought dictates that Iran would behave aggressively as it becomes increasingly cornered.  Of course, I would prefer Iran not to go nuclear.  I would prefer the world to abandon nuclear weapons.  That’s not how the world currently works, however.  Iran’s actions must be considered in the context of their situation.  It is not a case of isolated fanatics who wish to bring about the end of the world, but a nation acting rationally given its current situation.

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