The National Post
By Danny Eisen,
September’s birth flower is the “forget-me-not.” It should grace the seat of every MP as Parliament reconvenes on Monday, for as the Commons sat empty for most of this month, many Canadians paid tribute to Canada’s extraordinary role in two of the most significant ideological confrontations of the last century — marking the 70th anniversary of the start of the Second World War and the eighth anniversary of Sept. 11. The lessons of both these conflicts should be kept in mind as Canada ponders its response to an ideologically driven Iranian regime and its nuclear provocations. In confronting both the Axis powers and al-Qaeda, the West faced a fiercely uncompromising ideological adversary that spoke in terms of mythic global confrontation and dominance; that demonized particular states or ethnic groups and threatened their annihilation; and showed a willingness to absorb immense losses in the pursuit of its ideological agenda. Whatever the historical differences, in both cases the failure of the international community to take these convictions seriously at an earlier stage resulted in consequences that filled cemeteries and scarred subsequent generations.
Lawmakers should therefore heed “September’s lessons” and give serious consideration to the depth of the religious and political convictions of Iran’s ruling elites when formulating a Canadian policy response to Iran’s nuclear violations. There is broad consensus that Iran’s attainment of nuclear capability is inevitable. The growing alarm was recently heightened by Associated Press’ publication of intelligence information from a confidential International Atomic Energy Association report, outlining Iran’s extensive efforts in militarizing its nuclear program. But the development of illicit technology may itself be less significant than the convictions of those who own it and the reliability of the regime with its finger on the button.
The West should not delude itself. The Islamic Republic of Iran is truly committed to pursuing the principles and goals of the Islamic Revolution as articulated by Ayatollah Khomeini, who perceived Iran as a nation with a mission “to export our revolution to the whole world” and “to establish an Islamic state worldwide.” The regime’s foreign policy initiatives stem from deeply held beliefs of a conspiratorial West seeking Iran’s demise and Iran’s right to regional supremacy based on the conviction that Iran is the true and rightful heir to the leadership of the entire Muslim Umma. The theological and revolutionary zeal of Iran’s clerical elite for ultimate global ascendance has taken an even more extreme turn with the election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who adheres to an apocalyptic theology which maintains that facilitating a clash of civilizations between the Islamic world and the West would hasten the messianic revelation required for establishing Islam’s ultimate dominion on earth.
Given the eschatological and revolutionary calculus that informs Iranian policy; its spotless record of ideologically based malevolence; its public offer to share its nuclear technology; its sponsorship of the Syrian nuclear program; and the proclamations of Iranian officials and leaders regarding the plausible use of nuclear weapons, the destruction of other countries and the need “to wipe Anglo-Saxon culture off the face of the Earth,” the threat of a nuclear incident instigated by Iran or by one of its terrorist proxies must not be dismissed as mere hyperbole.
“September’s lessons” teach that the international community must intercede immediately while the narrow window of opportunity for a non-military solution is still open. Economic sanctions must be considered as a nonviolent weapon of choice and possibly of last resort. The existing multilateral sanctions against Iran already implemented by Canada and other countries have failed, being far weaker than those imposed in the past on non-global threats like the Congo, Liberia and Cote D’Ivoire, Sierra Leone and Haiti. They are also much less severe than those imposed by Canada on Burma and Zimbabwe. Given that multilateral action is so difficult to achieve, Canada should consider pursuing unilateral and bilateral financial measures outside of the UN framework. In particular Canada should impose sanctions on any entity that provides Iran, or helps Iran obtain, refined petroleum, including suppliers, shippers and insurance companies. The idea enjoys extensive bipartisan support in Washington and is being considered by other countries as well. Further sanctions should include prohibitions against sales of dual-use technology and the listing of the powerful Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps as a banned terrorist entity.
Given Iran’s record, there are no shortage of grounds for more extensive sanctions against Iran. But there is a severe shortage of time to enact them and there must not be a shortage of alacrity in doing so. Failure will only set the stage for similar confrontations in the future with like-minded regimes who are watching carefully to see if our words will be matched by actions.