This past Monday, Canada joined Britain and the United States to impose new sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran in the wake of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report published two weeks ago.
The IAEA report, published on November 8th by Director General Yukiya Amano, suggested that Iran carried out tests “relevant to the development of a nuclear device” and had been pursuing the science needed to make an atomic bomb at least until 2003. But that interest mostly took the form of research, rather than building an actual bomb.
Iran has denied the allegations.
House leader Peter Van Loan told the Commons on Monday that Canada would expand previous sanctions to block all transactions with Iran’s central bank. “We will do what it takes to isolate the regime and minimize the risk that it poses to global peace.”
Canada’s sanctions ban all financial transactions with Iran and its banks, except for existing contracts and personal (payments or transfers) of up to $40,000.
“The only two things that will be allowed for financial procedures through there will be individual families submitting remittances to their family members in Iran and then just the general operating expenses of our embassy in Tehran,” Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said in a media teleconference on Tuesday.
In a phone interview with Salam Toronto, Middle East expert at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Houchang Hassan-Yari said nobody is sure if Iran is seeking nuclear weapons, adding that the sanctions are significant because “it could pave the road for the UN Security Council to pass a new resolution.”
Hassan-Yari also said the sanctions are not good news for Iranian-Canadians.
“It would make it more difficult to visit Iran and for those in Iran to visit family in Canada,” he added. “If they are actively involved in trying to create rapprochement between the two states, it will be impossible for them to succeed because the Canadian government has decided to pursue this venue of sanctions and pressure on Iran.”
The sanctions by Western nations have targeted Iran’s access to major global financial markets and also materials for petrochemical, oil, and gas production.
US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner told reporters last Monday that Iranian banks are losing their ability to do business around the world because the sanctions have reduced their access to the international financial system.
Minister Baird also said sanctions put on Iran will affect the economy and expressed fear that a nuclear-enabled Iran could supply weapons to other non-states.
“The real fear is, of course, that if the state of Iran acquired a nuclear weapon, that a non-state entity could gain the technology,” said Baird. “And we look at the significant support Iran gives non-state entities, notably Hezbollah and Hamas, and that causes us significant concern.”
Both China and Russia, countries that have commercial interests with Iran, have restrained from imposing further sanctions.
“We again underline that the Russian Federation considers such extraterritorial measures unacceptable and contradictory to international law,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said in the statement.
Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast said in Tehran on Tuesday that the “sanctions are futile repetitious efforts which will not affect Iran’s economy,” Richmond Hill MP Costas Menegakis told Salam Toronto that the sanctions will add individuals and entities to the list of designated persons, expand the list of prohibited goods, and take aggressive action to cover the known leadership of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG).
What now after the sanctions?
On CTV’s Question Period last weekend, Defense Minister Peter Mackay said “there are options that all have to be explored and exhausted” and that “the military option is the least preferable”.
In a Globe and Mail article published last Tuesday, former Canadian Ambassador to the UN, Paul Heinbecker wrote that “Canadians need to engage and come to as common a view as possible on how to protect our interests and project our values in the Middle East before we find ourselves drifting into war” and that “this issue is too important to be left to politicians and politics as usual”.
During an interview with Salam Toronto, Heinbecker stated that “clearly what (Canada) is intending to do is stop any kind of business between Canadian companies and Iranian companies in the oil business.”
“These kinds of cat and mouse games can be dangerous, as we saw with Sadam Hussein in Iraq,” said Hein
Sadam Hussein in Iraq,” said Heinbecker. “War would have widespread and far reaching consequences in terms of oil prices, the impact on the international economy, and conflict in terms of relations between Islamic countries and the west.”
Iranian-Canadian Congress also sent a letter to Prime Minister Harper on Tuesday, expressing concern about the possibility of Canada getting involved in a pre-emptive strike on Iran.
Aside from the nuclear issue, Iran is also being condemned on the issue of human rights.
The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution last Monday calling on Iran to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Iran, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, to investigate violations in the country. The resolution also calls on Iran to release all arbitrarily detained individuals held for exercising their right to peaceful assembly and expression, including opposition figures, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.
Sponsored by the Government of Canada and forty-one other states, the resolution drew the highest number of votes since 1992 with 86 countries in favor, 32 against, and 59 abstentions.
Sanctions imposed by Canada can be found here.
The UN human rights resolution against Iran can be found here.