By Morgan Stride
Sept. 24, 2012
Canada’s decision to sever ties with Iran is perplexing, says a UPEI political science professor.
But Iranian-Canadians have asked for it for a long time, said a spokesperson for the United Iranian Canadian Society.
The federal government severed ties with Iran on Sept. 7. The government expelled all Iranian diplomats and closed its embassies. Italy took over Canada’s diplomatic work in Tehran.
The federal government’s move raises questions, said UPEI Professor Peter McKenna.
The government hasn’t said what’s changed in the political landscape. Nor has it said why it’s making this move now, he said.
“We’ve dealt with bad regimes before, but never severed ties completely like this.”
Italy won’t prioritize the same way Canadian diplomats would, said McKenna. Diplomats are a friendly influence for Canadians stuck in the country or in Iranian prisons. It won’t help anyone to remove this work, he said.
“There are Canadians on death row over there. Who will help them now?”
Still. many Iranian-Canadians support the move, said Amir Feridooni, director of the United Iranian Canadian Society. Iranian intelligence agencies used its Canadian embassy to spread propaganda and control the Iranian community. The UICS knew of their involvement and requested the closure, he said.
“You won’t get a good view of the issue without looking at its history in depth, and Iran’s history of clandestine action in particular.”
The Iranian regime has terrorized its citizens abroad ever since the revolution in 1979, said Feridooni.
Many Iranians fled to other countries to escape imprisonment, execution and torture. Iran sends agents to murder activists abroad on a regular basis, he said.
“They were influencing communities to reduce pressure on the Iranian government and lobby in its favour. We’re happy to close out this option.”
The closure could be an ideological move, said McKenna. The closure is consistent with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s pro-Israel stance. And it could mean he knows something about Israel’s military plans.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if they were planning something, but it wouldn’t be a good move. America might not back them up.”
Cutting diplomatic ties also ends any dialogue between the two nations, said McKenna. It says Canada doesn’t want to negotiate any more. Without diplomats on the ground, Canada has less control over the message it sends Iran, he said.
“I think Harper’s ideological stance is trumping pragmatism here.”
Canada and Iran have not had much of a relationship for a long time, said Feridooni. Since Iranian agents murdered journalist Zahra Kazemi, Canada’s ties with Iran are almost non-existent. Up until now, Canada has only dealt with them on a consul level to issue visas and other documents, he said.
“It may not be as convenient, but it will be safer for Iranians in Canada and Canadian society.”
Canadians can help by learning more about the situation and supporting Iranian freedom, said Feridooni. The answer isn’t a war to force regime change. The change must come from within, he said.
“We believe in change, but Iranians must bring it about themselves. We’re not calling for America to interfere like in Iraq or Libya.”