11/08/2012 08:26 EST | Updated 01/07/2013 05:12 EST

Why Can't Canada and Muslim Countries Get Along?

FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2012 file photo, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad flashes a victory sign in Tehran, Iran. With the Iraq war over and Afghanistan winding down, Iran is the most likely place for a new U.S. military conflict. Despite unprecedented global sanctions, Iran’s nuclear program is advancing. The United States and other Western nations fear the Islamic republic is determined to develop nuclear weapons and fundamentally reshape the balance of power in the Middle East, while posing a grave threat to Israel. Iran insists its program is solely designed for peaceful energy and medical research purposes. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

Canadians still haven't been able to to figure out why their government snapped diplomatic relations with Iran and at this particular time. The move has been criticized as being counterproductive, but at least one commentator said that Iranians are bad, bad, bad and it was overdue.

Canada and Iran have had a troubled relationship. When the Iranians seized the U.S. embassy in 1979 and took American diplomats hostage the Canadian embassy sheltered six Americans, including charge d'affaires Bruce Laingan. Ambassador Kenneth Taylor arranged their departure posing as Canadians to the applause of Americans and Canadians.

Canadian-Iranian photographer Zahra Kazemi was arrested in Iran in 2003 while taking pictures at Evrin prison and was allegedly raped in custody and beaten to death. Iran tried to deny responsibility. An infuriated Canada downgraded relations with Iran in 2007. Currently Canadian-Iranians Hamid Ghassemi-Shall and Saeed Malekpour are under death sentence in Iran for alleged spying. Iran doesn't recognize dual nationality.

Paul Dewar, the foreign affairs critic of the Opposition New Democratic Party, called the government's action unwise. "For us to make a difference, we have to be there."

Liberal Party's interim leader Bob Rae said that "we don't cut off diplomatic relations with every country we disagree with."

A Globe and Mail reporter stated that Canada has shot itself in the foot. This is the second time in recent years that Canada and a Muslim country had a major disagreement. Two years ago Canada had a tiff with the United Arab Emirates over landing rights of airlines. As a result UAE ousted Canada from a military base which Canada had used free of charge for years to supply its troops in Afghanistan. UAE also imposed a stiff visa fees on Canadians.

John Mundy, Canada's last ambassador to Iran before relations were downgraded in 2007, wrote:

"Our opposition parties should move for an immediate debate in Parliament on our foreign policy towards Iran so that the Canadian people know where the government is leading us. The government should explain how it sees a peaceful resolution of the nuclear issue with Iran given that it believes further diplomacy to be futile. Secondly, Parliament should know how committed Canada is to Israel, particularly in the event of Israeli military actions... our policy towards Iran is the first time in decades that a Canadian prime minister has acted to reduce the diplomatic opportunities for peace during a crisis."

Former Canadian ambassador to Iran Taylor and former Canadian ambassador to Spain Daniel Molgat also criticized the move.

Baird has explained that Canadian diplomats in Iran might have been endangered. He also assailed Iran for its repression, siding with the brutal Syrian regime against its people, pursuing its nuclear program, backing terrorist groups in Lebanon and Afghanistan and calling for Israel's destruction.

If Baird felt that Canadian diplomats might be endangered in Iran, he could have recalled them without expelling Iranian diplomats.

The Iranian regime is brutally repressive -- many Iranians have successfully claimed refugee status in Canada. The former Shah's government was also repressive and so are the Russian and Chinese regimes. Canada has good relations with them. These governments also support the Syrian government.

The U.S. has a huge stockpile of nuclear, thermonuclear and chemical and biological weapons. Israel has an array of nuclear weaponry. Canada hasn't cut ties with the U.S. or Israel.

In 1953 the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and the British helped oust Iran's popularly elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and reinstated the Shah, who had fled. The U.S. invaded Iraq on false charges of possessing weapons of mass destruction (which it itself possesses and so does Israel). The U.S. uses torture chambers in other countries for Al Qaeda suspects. It also detains them at Guantanamo Bay for years without a fair trial.

Israel flouts UN resolutions and since 1967 has blocked a just and peaceful solution. Its agents have been killing Iranian scientists for years. The U.S. and Israel have similarly been waging cyber-warfare against Iran under "Operation Olympic Games" though the Pentagon said last year that a computer attack on the U.S. would be considered war.

To some western governments, such actions are not terrorism. But resistance from the victims is. Muslim terrorists do target innocent Muslims and non-Muslims, which is against Islamic principles, but there is little evidence that Iran is behind them.

U.S. intelligence agencies and Israel's military chief, Benny Gantz, have stated that they believe Iran is not pursuing nuclear weapons and that, if it did, it would be a couple of years before they build them. Even then the U.S. and Israel would have overwhelming military superiority. Within the Israeli cabinet and the country, there is opposition to Israel launching air attacks against Iran.

Tony Burman, former head of Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and of Al-Jazeera, wrote in the Toronto Star:

Canada appears to have a new foreign minister. His name is Benjamin Netanyahu. His day job may be prime minister of Israel, but Canada's abrupt actions against Iran seem to confirm that the Harper government's outsourcing of Canada's Middle East policy to Jerusalem is now complete...After decades of being one of the world's most respected 'honest brokers' on Middle East issues, what in God's name has slipped into the water supply in Canada to explain such a change.

When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met Iranian leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei at the meeting of the Non-Aligned Movement countries in Tehran recently Khamenei urged the United Nations to create a nuclear-free Middle East. He stated that nuclear weapons posed a threat to all mankind.

The U.S. and Canada should have seized the opportunity this idea offered to pursue banning of nuclear weapons in the Middle East. They did not. Perhaps they do not want a nuclear weapons-free Middle East, but simple one where Israel is the master of its own destiny and that of other countries in the region.

Iran's Nuclear Issue