OTTAWA – A Conservative foreign affairs critic says the Liberal government shouldn’t lift sanctions or re-open its embassy in Iran because of continuing threats to foreign diplomats.
Peter Kent is also refuting a former government analyst’s assessment that Liberal efforts to re-engage with Iran is hamstrung by the previous Conservative government having designated it a state sponsor of terrorism.
In 2012, the Tories closed Canada’s embassy in Tehran and expelled Iranian diplomats in Ottawa, severing relations.
They also passed the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which allowed victims of terrorism to sue countries that are listed as supporters of terrorism.
The new Liberal government wants to re-establish diplomatic relations with Iran, and it is working to lift sanctions in return for Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement with the United States and five other major powers.
Kent says Canadian diplomats would remain at risk in a newly opened embassy in Tehran because the Iranian government still isn’t living up to its international obligations to protect foreign missions on its soil.
Kent cited attacks on the Saudi Arabian embassy earlier this month following the kingdom’s execution of a prominent Iranian cleric. Kent also cited comments from Tehran in recent days since the landmark nuclear deal.
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Canada closed its embassy in 2012 because they feared a repeat of an earlier attack on Britain’s embassy. The British have since returned to Iran, but the recent attack on the Saudi embassy means it would be premature for Canada to follow suit, says Kent.
“I believe if the embassy is reopened, Canada will be putting its foreign affairs professionals at serious risk, given the Iranians’ very selective protection of diplomatic staff,” said Kent.
Kent also rejected the assessment of a former Canadian government analyst and Middle East expert who has said the Conservatives “booby-trapped” relations with Iran.
Thomas Juneau, a University of Ottawa expert on Iran who spent eight years during the Harper era as an analyst at the Department of National Defence and the Privy Council Office, said the listing of Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism and the passage of the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act were obstacles to the government being able to lift sanctions.
“The Americans have listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism since Reagan,” said Kent.
Kent noted that the U.S. immediately posed a new round of sanctions on Iran after the nuclear deal was sealed to punish the country for test-firing a ballistic missile.
A Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman has said the government is still reviewing its sanctions relief on Iran is because it is concerned about the ballistic missile tests.
© 2016 The Canadian Press