Among the Canadians publicly criticizing the government’s decision to end diplomatic relations with Iran, three former Ambassadors to Iran have arguably been the most vocal.
Former Canadian ambassador to Iran, Kenneth Taylor, who famously helped the CIA smuggle out six American diplomats during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, was among the first to question the decision, and explained to CTV News the benefits of having officials who can directly “size up the situation and report from the spot.”
Canada’s ambassador to Iran between 1972 and 1977, James George, was quoted in the Globe and Mail last month saying “(Canada) needs to keep an ear open there – our own ear.” George also suggested that “Canada has some inside information” that Israel will attack Iran before the coming US Presidential election.
The last Canadian ambassador to Iran, John Mundy, wrote in the Globe and Mail on September 10 that the government’s reasoning behind the embassy closure is actually grounds to stay in Iran.
“The Prime Minister has listed Iran’s terrible human rights record, its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, its provocative nuclear program and its repeated threats against Israel as reasons to leave,” Mundy wrote. “These are actually reasons why we should stay.”
In a discussion last week in Toronto hosted by the Canadian International Council (CIC) – an independent council established to strengthen Canada’s role in international affairs – Mundy did not go as far to say war is imminent, but did expand on his opinions.
In his 30-minute speech in front of stakeholders and members of the Iranian-Canadian community, Mundy elaborated on what he called Canada’s “mistake” and looked at the implications of a military option against Iran. He also reviewed a brief history leading up to the current state of affairs between Iran and the West, touched on recent international negotiations, and wasted no time proposing a possible approach.
“The Prime Minister should join our closest allies by going on record to warn Prime Minister Netanyahu not to strike Iran and Mr. Mulcair should support him,” Mundy stated in the first few minutes of his speech.
“For the first time in decades we see a Canadian Prime Minister acting to reduce the diplomatic opportunities for peace during an international crisis,” Mundy said. “With our latest decision to withdraw from Iran we are effectively out of the game.”
“This is new ground for Canada,” said Mundy
Mundy himself was expelled by Iran in 2007 after tensions between the two countries deteriorated because of both Iran’s human rights record in the Zahra Kazemi case and Canada denying Iran’s proposal for ambassadorship to Canada. Both nations, until recently, were limited to having representation through Charge d’Affa ires.
Currently, Mundy says, with Iran’s alleged military influence in Syria, the IAEA report showing continued expansion of the Iranian enrichment program, and President Ahmadinejad again questioning the legitimacy of Zionism in Israel, “there are also hopeful signs.”
“The first one is that Mr. Ahmadinejad will be replaced in 2013,” Mundy said. “Another is that Israeli President Shimon Peres has publicly warned Prime Minister Netanyahu against attacking Iran.”
Mundy ended the discussion with his recommendations on how Canada should be responding in terms of its foreign policy towards Iran.
“Canada should use its influence with Israel and its leadership on human rights to help current negotiations with Iran succeed and achieve a lasting settlement with this country” he said. “If Mr. Harper does not do this soon then our leader of the Opposition should at least make clear that he would not support a unilateral Israeli attack and force our Prime Minister to explain Canadian policy.”
The CIC will continue the discussion on Wednesday October 10 when Ottawa Centre MP and current federal foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar will speak on the NDP’s foreign affairs priorities.