Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Government of Canada (predictably) unimpressed with Iran deal

In what may be a legacy-defining move, Barack Obama (technically, the P5+1 group of UN Security Council members United States, Britain, China, France, Russia and Germany) has finally struck a controversial deal with Iran. Under the terms of the deal, which are spelled out in great detail, Iran essentially agrees to curb its nuclear program and ambitions, and the West agrees to lift the punitive economic sanctions that have been crippling the country for decades now.
The deal may not be perfect, and the underlying motives (of both sides) may not be wholly transparent. This is amply demonstrated by one of the provisions, that if Iran is seen to be compromising its terms at any point, the sanctions will be slapped right back on. The agreement may or may not stop the spread of nuclear weapons in the region, as Mr. Obama earnestly claims, but this nevertheless seems to be a major step forward for international relations and a victory for the power of negotiation. Current Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is demonstrably not the hawkish and unstable Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and the oppressed people of Iran deserve this chance at redemption.
Reactions have been mixed, though, to say the least. Predictably, the loudest outcry has come from Israel's Benjamin Netanyahu, who called the agreement a "stunning historic mistake" which "will enable it [Iran] to continue to pursue its aggression and terror", a prime case of the (nuclear) pot calling the (would-be nuclear) kettle black. He has repeated his vow to unilaterally attack Iran in order to keep it from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Sunni Islamic countries, principally Saudi Arabia, have raised their objections to anything that might give a break to Shia Muslim Iran, an equally predictable sectarian knee-jerk reaction. Shia regimes like Syria and Iraq, on the other hand, have welcomed a stronger Iran in the hopes that it will be able to give more support to their own internal factional struggles. Traditionally pro-American Arab states like Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan have voiced their approval of the deal, although they are clearly worried about how it might alter the balance of power in the region. The less theocratic and more plutocratic countries in the area, like Turkey, UAE, Qatar, Oman and Kuwait, also see economic advantages from the accord, and remain tight-lipped on the political implications.
In North America, the US Republicans, of course, have object vociferously to anything the Democratic government does, griping unconvincingly that the deal undermines American national security, and bandying around emotive phrases like "appeasement" and "death sentence" with gay abandon, and vowing to repeal the accord as soon as they possibly can.
And, guess what, Canada's Stephen Harper - perhaps the world's staunchest apologist for Israel these days - is more than willing to go out on a limb to take the Israeli point of view, even at the cost of opposing all his other allies. Canada is therefore doggedly sticking to its own paltry sanctions against Iran, flying in the face of international public opinion, and repeating the tired mantra that Canada "will continue to judge Iran by its actions not its words". Conservative Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson did mention, however, that he was appreciative of the P5+1's "efforts" to negotiate an agreement. Thanks, Rob.
It's getting to the stage where it's just plain embarrassing to admit to being Canadian...

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