Canada’s missed opportunity in Middle East diplomacy

By D. Groskind

August 29, 2015

Canada will not be on the inspection team from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is charged with enforcing the new nuclear agreement with Iran. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said on July 30.

“American and Canadian inspectors cannot be sent to Iran,” said Araghchi. “It is mentioned in the deal that inspectors should be from countries that have diplomatic relations with Islamic republic of Iran.”

If Prime Minister Stephen Harper had not broken diplomatic relations in September, 2012 then potentially Canada would have been involved. Canada’s presence would have enhanced the credibility of the inspections and contributed to the success of the treaty.

In January, 2014, then Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced Canada would contribute $1 million to support the IAEA. He said:

Much more needs to be done to address the long-standing issues surrounding Iran’s nuclear program. Canada stands ready to assist the IAEA and the P5+1 group as they attempt to definitively verify the nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

Unfortunately, Canada is barred from assisting the IAEA in Iran by his government’s own policies.

In August Britain reopened its embassy and the British foreign secretary will visit Tehran with a delegation of business leaders. Britain had all but severed relations with Iran in November, 2011 when a mob overran the British embassy in Tehran and Iran’s parliament voted to expel the British ambassador. Now the British hope that normal diplomatic relations and trade might encourage reformers in the Iranian leadership.

Some future Canadian government will have the task of following Britain’s lead. As Canada’s last ambassador to Iran John Mundy said, “If Britain can do it, Canada can do it too.” But Canada will have missed a chance to play a role in one of the great diplomatic initiatives in the recent history of the Middle East.

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