Why Canada branded the Iranian regime as terrorists

Analysis: Questions remain whether EU will follow Ottawa’s lead.

John Baird Canada (photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
John Baird Canada
(photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany)
BERLIN – Prior to cutting diplomatic ties on Friday with Tehran, the administration of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had garnered the reputation among human rights NGOs and media commentators as the new leader of the Free World and as Israel’s strongest advocate in international forums.
Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird added to his country’s profile with his announcement that Ottawa was severing diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic.
“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,” Baird said.
Rewind to the Durban II (2009) and III (2011) so-called anti-racism conferences in Geneva and New York, respectively. Canada was the first country to declare well ahead of both events that it planned to boycott the UN events because “the original [2001] Durban conference, and its declaration, as well as the non-governmental activities associated with it, proved to be a dangerous platform for racism, including anti-Semitism,” as Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney said.
Canada flexed its pro-human rights and pro- Israel muscles before the US and Germany — two countries that declare Israel as an essential ally in the Middle East – which could not muster the wherewithal to swiftly and unambiguously condemn and boycott Durbans II and III. The predictable spectacle of Iran’s contempt for the West and calls for Israel’s destruction mixed with Holocaust denial played out at both conferences. Both the US and Germany, in 11th-hour jockeying, stayed away from the follow-up Durban conferences.
On the Israel-Palestinian front, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu waxed lyrical about his Conservative Party counterpart Harper’s opposition to US President Barack Obama’s efforts to return to Israel’s pre-1967 lines as the blueprint for negotiations with the Palestinians.
Harper stood alone for Israel at a G8 meeting of the world’s top industrial countries in Deauville, France, in May 2011, based on his concern for Israel’s security, and attracted global headlines.
The Harper administration’s departure point has been the advancement of democracy and freedom. All this explains the relative lack of surprise on Friday surrounding Canada terming Iran’s regime a “state sponsor of terrorism.”
It is unclear whether Ottawa’s move will spill over onto the European Union and add momentum to the efforts to evict Iran’s diplomats, and to place the Revolutionary Guard Corps, as well as its long arm in Europe, the Lebanese group Hezbollah, on the EU terror list.
Tehran mounts outreach efforts across Europe. The question is, will Europe pay attention to Canada.
Europe being Europe, there is no burning desire to replicate Canada’s model to combat terror states. The think tank and journalistic work behind exposing the nefarious nature of Iran’s efforts in Canada and on the global stage were key in creating support for the state sponsor of terror label.
The executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies Mark Dubowitz and FDD Canadian director Sheryl Saperia testified in December 2011 before the Canadian Senate Committee on National Security and Defense on how to blunt Tehran’s attempts to illicitly obtain Canadian technology for its nuclear program and the need to designate the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization.
The dogged Ottawa-based journalist Michael Petrou, who writes for Canada’s premier national newsweekly, Maclean’s, detailed in reports and blogs over the years how Iran’s embassy worked to extend its radical ideology in Canada. Writing in a late June entry on the Maclean’s website, he noted: “The Iranian government, through its embassy in Ottawa and various friendly or affiliated organizations, is aggressively reaching out to the Iranian diaspora in Canada, as well as to other potentially sympathetic Muslims in the country.”
Europe tends to identify with Canada — a kind of Europe in North America. The public policy and political power question is, will the EU follow Canada’s lead and evict Iran’s regime from its territory?Benjamin Weinthal is a European affairs correspondent for The Jerusalem Post and a Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.