Baloney Meter: Would Restoring Relations Make Canada-Iran 'Best Friends?'

By Cheadle, Bruce | The Canadian Press, July 2, 2015 | Go to article overview

Baloney Meter: Would Restoring Relations Make Canada-Iran 'Best Friends?'


Cheadle, Bruce, The Canadian Press


Baloney Meter: Canada besties with Iran?

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OTTAWA - "I think it's very strange. At a time in history -- in fact he made the announcement on the national day of remembrance for victims of terrorism -- to say that his priority is the restoration, or to become best friends, with one of the state sponsors of terrorism in the world, the government of Iran, and that he wants to cut the relationship we've established with all of our allies." -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper, June 25.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper ripped into Justin Trudeau last week after the Liberal leader said he would re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran and end Canada's military role in the bombing campaign against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

How accurate were Harper's characterizations of those policy shifts?

Would re-opening the Canadian embassy in Tehran make Canada and Iran best friends? Would pulling Canada's fighter jets out of Iraq and Syria result in cutting Canada's relationship with its allies?

Spoiler Alert: The Canadian Press Baloney Meter is a dispassionate examination of political statements culminating in a ranking of accuracy on a scale of "no baloney" to "full of baloney" (complete methodology below).

This one earns a rating of "a lot of baloney." The assertion is mostly inaccurate but contains elements of truth.

Here's why:

THE FACTS

Canada abruptly closed its embassy in Tehran and cut diplomatic relations, declaring all Iranian diplomats in Canada persona non grata, on Sept. 7, 2012.

"Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today," then-foreign affairs minister John Baird said in a statement.

The Conservative government justified the move by citing the failure of the Iranian government to protect diplomatic personnel, its support for Syrian President Bashar Assad, threats against Israel and Tehran's failure to comply with United Nations resolutions on its nuclear program.

It was greeted by praise and criticism alike.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it "not only an act of statesmanship, but an act of moral clarity."

Celebrated former Canadian diplomat Ken Taylor, famous for helping six Americans escape Iran in 1979 when he was ambassador there, said Canada closed its eyes and ears to a country that needed monitoring: "As a diplomat," he said, "I think you never give up."

Canada joined the bombing mission against ISIL in Iraq following a vote in the House of Commons on Oct. 7, 2014, with both NDP and Liberal MPs voting against the airstrikes. The first Canadian airstrikes in Syria were conducted in April this year.

More than 60 countries are involved in the international effort to degrade ISIL, according to the U.S. State Department web site. Of those, only about a half-dozen militaries are involved in airstrikes in either Iraq or Syria. Only Canada and the United States are operating in both.

The United Arab Emirates, considered a key ally because of its Sunni Arab links, formally dropped out of the bombing campaign in February without incident.

THE EXPERTS

Diplomatic relations don't equate to "best friends," but re-establishing Canadian relations with Iran would send a signal, said Dane Rowlands, Carleton University's director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs.

"Obviously we have diplomatic relations with a number of rather objectionable countries," Rowlands said. "It's a question of movement, the change," that influences the relationship.

The timing of a Canadian policy shift would matter, he said, given ongoing negotiations between the U.S. and Iran over its nuclear program.

"If the nuclear talks go well, it would almost look absurd if we didn't re-establish relations with Iran."

Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, D. …

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