November 26, 2013 | Policy Brief

Canada Stays Strong on Iran

November 26, 2013 | Policy Brief

Canada Stays Strong on Iran

Canada has taken a tough public stance regarding the interim deal reached between Iran and the P5+1 on Sunday. Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird expressed great skepticism of Iran’s intentions to abandon its nuclear weapons program, explaining:

We have made-in-Canada foreign policy. We think past actions best predict future actions, and Iran has defied the United Nation Security Council and defied the International Atomic Energy Agency. Simply put, Iran has not earned the right to have the benefit of the doubt.

Until there is verification that Iran is meeting its international obligations, Baird announced that Canadian sanctions, imposed primarily under the Special Economic Measures Act (SEMA) since 2010, would remain in place.

This decision to dissent from the P5+1 should be viewed in the context of the broader policies of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative right-of-center government, which has generally taken a more hawkish approach to matters of foreign affairs, public safety, and universal human rights. Within the Public Safety portfolio, for example, the Harper government has been quite forward leaning in its counter-terrorism efforts. Most notably, it passed the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which allows victims of terror to file civil lawsuits against local and state sponsors of terror, and listed Iran as a state sponsor of terror.

At the same time, Canada has shown less faith in the efficacy of the United Nations system in recent years. Right or wrong, it demonstrates a Canadian identity evolving beyond that of going along with a majority international opinion.  This may help explain Baird’s opening comment on Sunday that “We have made-in-Canada foreign policy.”

If the international sanctions regime begins to crumble as a result of the Geneva agreement, Canada’s sanctions alone will admittedly do little to harm the Iranian economy. But that does not mean Canada lacks a voice. Ottawa appears determined to issue clear-eyed warnings of the threat a nuclear-armed Iran poses to international security.

As Baird warned, “it would also seriously damage the integrity of decades of work for nuclear non-proliferation. It would provoke other neighboring states to develop their own nuclear deterrent.”

This is exactly what Canada seeks to prevent.

Sheryl Saperia is the Director of Policy for Canada at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies


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