02/05/2012 01:46 EST | Updated 04/06/2012 05:12 EDT

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird Compares Iranian Threats To Israel And Nuclear Ambition To Holocaust


OTTAWA - Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird invoked images of the Holocaust in defending the notion of possible Israeli military action against Iran.

Appearing on CTV's Question Period Sunday, he suggested the Jewish state has every right to feel threatened and pointed to recent comments by the Islamic republic's supreme leader, who vowed to remove a "cancer" from the Middle East.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a speech broadcast across Iran on Friday, also pledged to aid any nation or group that challenges Israel.

"Obviously you can understand why the Jewish people and why Israel would take him seriously," Baird said in an interview with the news program from Israel.

"Hitler wrote Mein Kampf more than a decade before he became Chancellor of Germany. And they take these issues pretty seriously here."

The book Mein Kampf laid the foundation of Nazi ideology, which led to the Second World War and eventually the Holocaust.

Baird's comments added to the escalating war of words during the weekend over Iran's nuclear enrichment program.

The deputy head of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard also warned in an interview with the semi-official Fars news agency that any country in the Middle East whose territory is used to launch a military strike will face retaliation.

Hossein Salami was quoted as saying Tehran will use "retaliatory aggression" against its neighbours if they aid in such an attack.

The Iranian Charge d'Affaires, Kambiz Sheikh-Hassani, recently criticized both Baird and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in an email to the Ottawa publication Embassy Magazine, calling their statements on Iran "uninformed, undocumented, and inflammatory" rhetoric.

Harper has been on-the-record several times over the last few weeks describing the regime in Tehran as "a grave threat to peace and security" and warning that it would have no hesitation about using nuclear weapons.

Baird, who wrapped up a visit to Israel and is now on his way to join Harper in China, emphasized that Canada supports U.S. President Barack Obama in keeping "all options," including military action, on the table.

"At the same time, I think we have an incredible responsibility to take every single diplomatic effort necessary," he said.

Repeatedly throughout his visit to the Middle East, Baird has said the new wave of sanctions imposed on Iran by the international community, including a European embargo against Iranian oil, are having a significant impact on the hard-line regime.

The concern with the possibility of Tehran acquiring nuclear weapons is not limited to Israel, he said.

"The fear in the Arab world, the entire Gulf, the entire Middle East is palpable on this issue and it is increasingly a significant security threat for the West," Baird said.

Also in the interview, Baird expressed "deep disappointment" with both Russia and China's decision to veto a United Nations resolution that called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to give up power.

He wouldn't say whether the issue would be raised during Harper's visit this week to Beijing and tread softly when asked whether Canada will ask the Communist government to reconsider its action.

There would be a "full range of discussions," Baird said.

The UN vote on Saturday came following reports by activists that claimed Syrian forces had fired artillery into the City of Homs, which has been at the epicentre of the uprising against Assad.

Reports say the barrage killed more than 200 people.

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