October 12, 2023 | National Post

Canada must secure the release of hostages without funding Hamas

If Ottawa supports a U.S. ransom deal, terrorists would take it as green light to capture more Canadians
October 12, 2023 | National Post

Canada must secure the release of hostages without funding Hamas

If Ottawa supports a U.S. ransom deal, terrorists would take it as green light to capture more Canadians

“I hear them coming. I don’t know what will happen.”

These were among the final words of Canadian-Israeli dual national Vivian Silver, sent to a friend via text message on Saturday, as members of the Iranian proxy Hamas entered her home in a community near the Gaza border. The Globe and Mail reported the exchange Monday.

The 74-year-old woman, a longtime peace activist, is now a hostage of the terrorist group. Her whereabouts and condition remain unknown. Ottawa is working with Washington to secure her release as the United States seeks to recover several hostages of its own.

Israel is at war — and Canadians are in the crossfire. Two other Canadian women, Tiferet Lapidot and Shir Hanna Georgy, have been taken hostage. Three additional Canadians — Ben MizrachiAlexandre Look and Adi Vital-Kaploun — are dead at the hands of Hamas.

The capture of Canadian hostages reflects the flaws of Ottawa’s current deferential policy toward Tehran, which sustains the conflict between Israel and Hamas and even gave the final go-ahead for this weekend’s brutal attacks.

Hostage-taking is one of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s founding crimes — and a tactic long favored by its terrorist proxies. Canada responded forcefully to this malign conduct in the early days of the regime. It needs to do so again now.

In November 1979, Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage for 444 days. Six U.S. officials weren’t in the embassy compound when it was invaded. The Americans quickly received shelter in the homes of Canadian diplomats, who worked with the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency to concoct an elaborate ruse to enable an escape.

The U.S. diplomats posed as members of a movie crew visiting Iran to scout locations for filming. Using false Canadian passports shipped from Canada, they quietly departed Iran from Tehran’s Mehrabad Airport.

It was one of Canada’s finest moments. Yet in the subsequent 44 years, Canada has reverted from liberator to victim.

The clerical regime incarcerated dozens of foreign nationals, including some 10 Canadians. At least two Canadians have perished in Iran; one was tortured and beaten to death, and the other died under circumstances that were never revealed to the public.

At the present juncture, if Ottawa’s Iran policy doesn’t shift course, even more hapless Canadian citizens may become victims of Tehran and Hamas once again.

Context is key: In August, the United States agreed to release $6 billion in frozen Iranian funds as a ransom payment to Tehran to secure the freedom of five innocent Americans imprisoned on false charges of espionage. Washington also released five Iranian nationals residing in American jails for violating U.S. laws.

In theory, Tehran supposedly agreed to use the $6 billion only for humanitarian purposes. In practice, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has said Iran will spend the funds however it pleases. That likely means the cash will support the regime’s military budget.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau played no role in this exchange, which the parties negotiated in secret with no formal text. But in light of the latest developments in Israel, he needs to pay heed.

The U.S. transaction offers a stark lesson for Ottawa: Weakness begets aggression. Hamas surely took inspiration from the U.S. hostage deal when it decided to take Americans and Canadians as prisoners. There is no substitute for courage and resolve — as Canada demonstrated in 1979 — in the face of a brutal Islamist regime determined to humiliate and weaken the West.

That’s especially true if more secret negotiations between Washington and Tehran for a broader nuclear deal are underway. If past is prologue, Iran and Hamas could demand U.S. and Canadian ransom payments in exchange for the latest hostages.

If Washington caves in the event of a new deal, Trudeau will likely face prodigious domestic pressure to express support. But consent would be a dangerous mistake. Tehran and Hamas would likely interpret Ottawa’s backing as a green light to capture additional Canadian hostages. And there’s no telling how much more money Iran would demand for their freedom.

There’s a better way. Trudeau should announce that he would oppose any U.S. deal that entails ransom payments to Tehran. He should declare that Canada will never pay a ransom for hostages. He should discourage Canadians from visiting Iran. And he should designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which commandeers Iran’s regional aggression and domestic repression, as a terrorist group pursuant to Canada’s Criminal Code.

Such a policy won’t endear Trudeau to U.S. President Joe Biden or persuade him to change course. However, it would remind Tehran and Hamas that Canada remains as bold and defiant today as it was when it facilitated the escape of U.S. diplomats from Iran in 1979. In so doing, Trudeau would strengthen Canadian deterrence and could make Tehran and Hamas think twice before they seize another Canadian national.

Ottawa has demonstrated that it can help America free hostages without paying Tehran a dime. It shouldn’t condone U.S. capitulation now.

Tzvi Kahn is a research fellow and senior editor at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD). Follow him on X @TzviKahn. FDD is a nonpartisan research institute based in Washington, D.C. that focuses on national security and foreign policy.


Arab Politics Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War Jihadism Palestinian Politics