What Iranians lived in that time -- what they channeled through their intellectual salons and prison letters, their dreams and childhood memories -- felt to me like an epic novel, replete with calamities and reversals, crescendos and epiphanies, and a sweeping arc of history that cut through its core.
As international sanctions against Iran were lifted over the weekend and as U.S.-Iranian relations dominated the headlines, Canadian Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion implied on the sidelines of a Cabinet-level retreat that the Government is considering dropping its sanctions against Iran, a move that would align Canada with its closest international partners. That the government recognizes the economic and strategic disadvantages associated with its inherited Iran policy is a major step toward constructive re-engagement with Tehran.
As "Implementation Day" of the historic nuclear deal between world powers and Iran approaches, during which Iran will begin fulfilling the bulk of its end of the agreement while sanctions by the United Nations, United States and the European Union are removed, Canada must begin planning for the eventual restoration of ties with Iran in keeping with the new Trudeau government's affirmation to re-engage Tehran.
Canada's strength is not in its fleet of aircraft carriers, but in its moral capital. When our foreign policy reflects our core values, pluralism, diversity, tolerance and empathy then we can expect amplification of our influence around the world. Hearts and minds of population, tired of perpetual violence, is not won through military muscle, but by the ability to defuse conflict and tireless effort to establish and maintain peace.
International relations with Iran suffered under Stephen Harper. There's a noteworthy Iranian-Canadian community scattered across Canada, which has nurtured prominent artists, scientists, scholars, business people, entrepreneurs, journalists and even politicians who maintain close relations with the fellow citizens living in Iran. Now, as the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau is soon to be inaugurated, Iranians living in Canada and their compatriots at home are wishing for a quick and immediate normalization of the relations between Tehran and Ottawa.
Despite the vitriol stemming from both capitals, the extremist threat is the appropriate issue to spark a strategic recalculation in Tehran and Tel Aviv, even if temporary. Although the idea of Iranian-Israeli engagement may seem to be rooted in fantasy, the same factors that prompted the United States and Iran to try something new can and should drive Iran and Israel to follow suit.
For Iran, the rationale for the long march toward partnership can not be found in strategic alignment or expediency of politics alone, it runs much deeper; for many Iranians, America represents the new world, where individuals thrive on the merit of their skills and character, rather than old world feudal hierarchy.
The human rights-interfaith dialogue rhetoric employed by President Obama on May 22, 2015 at the Adas Israel Synagogue in Washington DC was wonderful and made people feel warm inside. But this type of rhetoric is, in fact, messianic -- it is for tomorrow, for a time when there is no more war. That day has not yet come, I am afraid. And to speak as if it has is very dangerous.
Here in Canada, where more than 81 per cent of us now live in urban centres, the challenge is how to create successful communities that are safe, healthy and sustainable. Jobs are of course central, but so too is making cities affordable for the majority. In Greater Vancouver, the average house price now exceeds $801,000, a rise of 83 per cent in the past decade.
Seven Iranian students have received a suspended sentence of up to 12 months and 91 lashes each. Their crime: they recorded a video signing Pharrell Williams' song, Happy. A huge disconnect is obvious in Iran and Saudi Arabia where, in the name of Islam, varying degrees of orthodoxy is being enforced on the masses.