THE BLOG

Spanking Iran Won't Get Canada Far

06/27/2012 08:27 EDT | Updated 08/27/2012 05:12 EDT

In advance of discussions in Moscow to dissuade Iran's nuclear ambitions, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird convened ambassadors in Ottawa from countries negotiating with Iran. In an ironic display of diplomatic wrangling, the Minister pressed for an aggressive stance against Iran.

The Moscow talks involve the P5+1 group: the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -- U.S., Russia, Britain, France, and China -- plus Germany. On one side of the table we have the world's largest nuclear arsenals -- with 19,000 nuclear weapons -- telling Iran to stop its attempts to make one weapon.

The West's threat of military intervention in Iran is akin to spanking your child while yelling, "Don't hit others!" Instead of this "do what we say" patriarchal hypocrisy, Canada needs to influence its allies, including Israel, in a "do what we do" approach.

Canada began arming its weapons systems with nuclear warheads during the 1960s. The warheads were never in our sole possession as we had a dual-key agreement with the U.S. Nevertheless, by 1984 our military was again free of the atom. Then Prime Minster Trudeau declared that Canada was "the first nuclear-armed country to have chosen to divest itself of nuclear weapons."

What Minster Baird failed to do is hold up a mirror to our Western allies and press them to curtail their own nuclear programs. At the same time that these big boys are slapping Tehran with sanctions and threats of military intervention they are simultaneously planning on being armed for the indefinite future and modernizing their own nuclear capabilities (except for Germany, which remains unarmed).

How then can the P5+1 negotiate with Iran in good faith?

The Nuclear Non-Proliferations Treaty (NPT) has been the backbone of peace and security in the nuclear age. The countries represented in Moscow are all party to the NPT, which has three pillars: (1) nuclear states "cannot in any way assist, encourage, or induce" other states to acquire the weapon; (2) peaceful use of nuclear energy is guaranteed to signatories for civil nuclear purposes, and; (3) all states with the weapon are bound to fully disarm.

While the P5 have committed to complete disarmament, it is unlikely that the world will "go to zero" as it is hard to put the genie back in the lantern. Nonetheless, coming as close to this goal as possible is a noble pursuit and directionally correct.

Renewed every five years, the NPT has witnessed several undeniable wins. The bomb has not been used in over 65 years and there are several instances of countries which have dismantled their nuclear programs altogether, including: Canada, South Africa, Libya, Brazil, Argentina, and the Ukraine.

Ratified by 189 countries, the NPT is one of the most widely endorsed agreements in history. There are four notable and nuclear non-signatories of the NPT, including Israel.

Israel, led by hardliner Benjamin Netanyahu, has a clandestine nuclear arsenal of its own. The country has a policy of opacity with regards to its nuclear weaponry, but the best estimates peg the store between 100 and 200 warheads.

How can the West demand inspections of Iranian facilities and at the same be silent on Israel's secret stash?

Prime Minister Netanyahu has called for preemptive strikes against Iran, a threat in line with Israel's history of unilateral aggression toward Middle Eastern nations attempting to acquire nuclear weapons (i.e. Iraq in 1981 and Syria in 2007). Will Iran be struck next?

Iranian President Ahmadinejad insists his country is not pursuing nuclear weapons. It seems clear, however, that the country intends to be the 10th member of the atomic club and is using talks like the ones in Moscow to stall as it develops its nuclear capacity.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has warned that Iran has the required expertise and materials to build a bomb. It suspects that the country's nuclear program is for military purposes as Iran has not allowed inspectors into the country's primary research facilities, including Parchin and Fordow. Nor has Iran provided a satisfactory explanation as to why it needs highly enriched uranium (up to 20 per cent) when civil nuclear purposes require much lower concentrations (5 per cent range).

There is no doubt that Iran has to chart a new course on the heels of the Moscow talks. But Western leaders have their bit to do too.

Minister Baird: Canada -- as a non-nuclear state -- is in a unique position to help ease tensions by pressing for the great forgotten goal of a generation. Be bold. Ask for more from our allies, especially Israel. Lead our allies in a "do what we do" approach, and don't fixate solely on the actions of Iran.