by John Mundy
Published in the Globe and Mail, September 10, 2012
No country suspends diplomatic relations with an adversary lightly. It signals that the possibility for future dialogue is over. While it is true that Canada has not been a major player in international negotiations with Iran, with this latest Canadian decision to suspend diplomatic relations with Iran, we are now effectively out of the game.
Canada’s action reduces our presence on the ground in Iran to zero. We will no longer have the ability to communicate directly with Iran’s government in Iran. We will no longer have Canadian diplomats following political developments within the country and using their local contacts and knowledge to assess how Iranian policy towards the outside world might evolve. A new presidential election to replace President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled for 2013 and we won’t be there to talk to the various actors and pass back to other interested governments, particularly the United States, our assessment of the candidates. Lastly and very significantly, our diplomats will no longer be able to protect the rights of Canadian citizens in Iran. There are several Canadian citizens in prison, two on death row. Like the United States and Britain, Canada will now have to rely upon other friendly countries remaining in Iran to protect our interests and citizens there.
While strictly speaking our action is not irreversible, once diplomatic relations have been suspended it is very difficult to get them back. We can expect that Canada will not have any diplomatic relations with Iran for the foreseeable future. Indeed it may take years before relations are re-established….
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