Op-ed

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Think twice before getting closer to Iran

by Candice Malcolm

The Hill Times
June 15, 2016

Canadian officials are quietly negotiating with Iran’s mullahs. The two countries are having preliminary talks on a plan to re-establish the diplomatic relations that were severed in 2012. Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion announced that Canada would begin lifting economic sanctions to fall in line with the United States and other Western allies who have already begun restoring relations with Iran.

But as Canada looks to re-engage with the antagonistic regime, consideration must be given to the issues that led to the cutting of diplomatic ties four years ago.

There are three broad and significant problems with the Iranian regime. Concerns over an illegal nuclear development program, the funding of extremist and terrorist organizations, and grave human rights abuses still persist. Iran has taken almost no meaningful steps to address or rectify these problematic elements, and therefore Canada should refrain from lifting economic sanctions and opening a new relationship with Iran. Canada should first demand and then verify that the Iranian regime improves its record before Canada re-engages.

Let’s be clear: Iran cannot become a nuclear power. The reasons are self-evident, and perhaps best represented by the Islamic Republic’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who uses Twitter to make clear his genocidal intent of annihilating Israel. A nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to the world’s only Jewish state. It would also prompt a dangerous nuclear arms race in a volatile and unstable part of the world, prompting nations such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey to pursue nuclear capabilities to balance Iran.

Many lauded the recent deal between Iran and the permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany, known as the P5+1, as a meaningful assurance that Iran will not develop a nuclear program.

The complex agreement, among other aspects, forced Iran to reduce its stockpile of uranium-enrichment centrifuges by two-thirds, dismantle 97 per cent of its low-enriched uranium, as well as halt all uranium enrichment at Iran’s Fordow site for at least 15 years and redesign its Arak plant so it can’t produce weapons-grade plutonium. It’s important to note, however, that both of these sites were built and developed in secret, breaking previous nuclear agreements and deceiving Western inspectors.

The West can ban nuclear activities at known sites all it wants; it is the unknown sites that are cause for greater concern.

A nuclear-empowered Tehran would not only pose a significant threat to Israel and destabilize the entire Middle East, it would also create a direct and strategic threat to the West—to Canada and the U.S.—should a nuclear weapon fall in the hands of one of Iran’s proxy terrorist groups.

Iran is the world’s foremost state sponsor of Islamic terrorism, bankrolling terrorist organizations around the world and having a hand in deadly civilian attacks from Buenos Aires to Tel Aviv.

The Canadian government declared in 2012 that the Iranian regime sheltered and provided material support to violent non-state actors that engage in terrorism. Canada declared that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force was instrumental in creating, training, and supplying weapons to Hezbollah. The Qods Force was listed as a terrorist entity because of its association with other recognized terrorist groups including Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

Alongside funding and enabling regional wars through its proxies, Iran also inflicts great harm and suffering upon its own people.

Despite electing a so-called moderate president in 2013, Hassan Rouhani, according to the Human Rights Watch organization, “the country has seen no significant improvements in human rights.”

In fact, executions (mostly public hangings) have increased sharply. According to the Iran Human Rights Documentation Center, there were 966 executions in 2015, up 34 per cent over the previous year. Security forces continue to routinely arrest journalists, bloggers, social media users, homosexuals, and women not wearing government-sanctioned headscarves.

Despite improved relations between Iran and the U.S., there is still great reason to be skeptical about engaging with Iran. Well-intentioned but naïve foreign policy will only empower the nefarious regime to continue abusing human rights at home, aiding global jihadists and terrorists, and pursuing a nuclear-weapons program that undermines global peace and stability.

British philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke is believed to have said: “all that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” If Canada ignores Iran’s belligerent behaviour and does nothing to stop the radical mullahs, we will be enabling evil and allowing it to triumph.

Candice Malcolm is a columnist with the Toronto Sun and a former press secretary to then-Conservative immigration minister Jason Kenney. She is a current fellow with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Image: AFP/Getty Images

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