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Avi Benlolo: Diplomatic rift between Tehran and Ottawa continues to grow

It's time for Iran to stop these shenanigans and start reflecting on how it can productively rejoin the world community Avi Benlolo, National Post Publishing date: Nov 26, 2020 •

In a scathing indictment of Canada, Mohsen Baharvand, Iran’s deputy foreign minister for legal affairs, accused this country of “hampering Tehran’s efforts to clarify the truth” about the crash of the Ukrainian airliner.

Yet it was Iran’s own missiles that brought down the plane, which resulted in the deaths of 167 civilians, including 57 Canadians. Iran says it mistook the Ukrainian passenger plane for an “invading missile after the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) fired ballistic missiles at a U.S. airbase in western Iraq … in retaliation for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.” Well, at least the deputy minister admitted that the responsibility for shooting down of the airliner lies squarely with the IRGC — an organization that has been accused of supporting terrorist activities.

Even though Canada has repeatedly demanded, and failed to receive, access to the crash site, an explanation from the Iranians and access to the flight recorder, Iran still claims that there is nothing preventing Canada from “investigating the incident in accordance with international conventions.” Baharvand claims that the “Canadian government does not respect international law” and that all this is “based on political prejudice.”

If so-called political prejudice means justice for the victims who were murdered in cold blood, so be it. It’s about time we stand up for our own citizens. Of all the countries that have been accused by the international community of being state sponsors of terrorism, Iran has much to answer for about its conduct.

Its pursuit of nuclear weapons, terror escapades in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and pseudo-military operations against Israel all beg the question of how it can justifiably demand a co-operative and trusting multilateral relationship with Canada.

“If the Canadian government thinks that it can put pressure on Iran with propaganda and unrealistic statements, it will not work,” charged the deputy foreign minister. But for this regime, propaganda and “unrealistic statements” is par for the course, as we regularly see Iranian Twitter accounts making anti-Semitic statements and denying the Holocaust. How can anyone ever take such ignoramus behaviour seriously?

My hope is that Iran will eventually settle down, stop sabre rattling and causing uncertainty in the Middle East and join the community of peaceful nations. In the meantime, why should Iran be trusted? Who among us can forget the horrific murder of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian citizen who was raped and tortured in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran before she was killed?

Iran has been accused of arresting dual nationals to barter for its own citizens held in other countries, or economic concessions. Just recently, Iran exchanged a jailed British-Australian academic for three Iranians who had been detained abroad.

With its intransigence, Iran has irritated many Gulf states, particularly Saudi Arabia. Recently, King Salman bin Abdulaziz urged the world to take “a decisive stance” against Iran: “The kingdom stresses the dangers of Iran’s regional project, its interference in other countries, its fostering of terrorism, its fanning the flames of sectarianism and calls for a decisive stance from the international community against Iran that guarantees a drastic handling of its efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and develop its ballistic missiles program.”

It appears the Iranians have several axes to grind with Canada. The deputy minister claims Canada has become a safe haven for Iranian fraudsters who Iran wants extradited. Moreover, after Canada demanded the closure of the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa, the deputy minister claimed the “Iranian government had some money in the embassy and some other diplomatic centres, mostly related to the Iranian Cultural Counsel, which Canada illegally confiscated … and Canada must repay.”

What he is probably referring to is the approximate $28 million in Iranian property seizure in Canada in 2019 that was sold off and given to victims of terror attacks perpetrated by Hamas and Hezbollah, which have been bankrolled, armed and trained by Iran. Since Canada ended diplomatic relations with Iran under the Harper government in 2012, relations between the two countries have continued to sour. And with the downing of the Ukrainian airliner, things have only gotten worse.

Canada’s foreign policy has clearly gotten the attention of Iran. Nearly two years ago, the House of Commons passed a resolution with substantial bipartisan support to designate the IRGC a terrorist entity. It’s unclear why this process has stalled, despite the reassurances from the Liberals that they were making progress on this file. It’s time for Canada to take substantive action in this regard.

Nothing can be achieved from war, conflict or continued sabre rattling. Persians have a long and proud history. As a people, they are very much respected. Sadly, the Iranian people have been mislead by their government’s hostile ideology. It appears as though the regime wants international acceptance and recognition, which is why it lashes out uncontrollably.

It’s time for Iran to stop these shenanigans and start reflecting on how it can productively rejoin the world community, advance its people and take part in a peaceful dialogue in the Middle East.

National Post https://nationalpost.com/opinion/avi-benlolo-diplomatic-rift-between-tehran-and-ottawa-continues-to-grow


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