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Canada Is Restoring Ties with Iran, but Appears to Be Getting Nothing in Return

Five years ago, Ottawa broke off relations with Tehran. But since becoming prime minister in 2015, Justin Trudeau has promised to restore ties, and Canadian diplomats traveled to Iran last week for talks. Michael Petrou, noting the Islamic Republic’s support for terror, backing of the murderous rule of Bashar al-Assad, and atrocious human-rights record, is skeptical that any good will come out of reconciliation between the two countries:

[The] former Canadian resident Saeed Malekpour has been jailed [in Iran] for almost a decade, accused, among other charges, of propagandizing against the Islamic Republic. The Concordia University professor and Canadian citizen Homa Hoodfar was released by Iran last September, after more than 100 days in Tehran’s Evin Prison. . . . While diplomatic relations worked in that case, they didn’t save the Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, who, in 2003, was jailed at Evin, tortured, raped, and murdered. . . .

This doesn’t necessarily mean Canada shouldn’t have diplomatic relations with Iran. Canada has official ties with all sorts of obscene regimes. . . . But it would be refreshing if Canada were more candid about the tawdry nature of these relations. Trudeau once dismissed the weaponized armored vehicles Canada sells to Saudi Arabia as “jeeps”—a ridiculous statement, but one that was easier to square with his government’s supposedly more principled foreign policy.

Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia results in money, jobs, and, ironically, an alliance with the leader of a bloc of Sunni Arab states opposing Iran—whose ambitions in the region Canada generally opposes. What Canada gets out of restoring diplomatic ties with Iran is harder to discern: more convenient travel for Iranian Canadians and their relatives, certainly, and the possibility of modest trade and business deals down the road.

That might be enough for Trudeau’s government, and if it is, he should say so. But if Canada is to claim engaging with Iran will help Canada “hold Iran to account on human rights,” [to paraphrase a foreign-ministry spokesman], it should explain why this is so. That would be a difficult argument to make. There is little evidence to support it.

Read more at Canada

More about: Canada, Iran, Politics & Current Affairs, Saudi Arabia

Israel’s Success Has Surprised Everyone

April 20 2018

On the eve of Israel’s decision to declare statehood, 70 years ago, the CIA estimated that a Jewish state couldn’t hold off its Arab enemies for more than two years, while the famed Haganah commander Yigael Yadin told David Ben-Gurion that their chances of victory were fifty-fifty. Daniel Gordis describes just how wildly the country has managed to outpace expectations:

In 1948, there were some 650,000 Jews in Israel, who represented about 5 percent of the world’s Jews. Today, Israel’s Jewish population has grown ten-fold and stands at about 6.8 million people. Some 43 percent of the world’s Jews live in Israel; this population overtook American Jews several years ago and is now the world’s largest Jewish community. . . .

Beyond mere survival, the other challenge that the young Jewish state faced was feeding and housing the hundreds of thousands of Jews who were flocking to its borders. At times, financial collapse seemed imminent. Food was rationed and black markets developed. Israel had virtually no heavy machinery for building the infrastructure that it desperately needed. Until Germany paid Holocaust reparations, the young state’s financial condition was perilous.

Today, that worry also feels like a relic from another time. Israel is not only a significant military power, but also a formidable economic machine. A worldwide center for technology that has more companies listed on the Nasdaq than any country other than the U.S., Israel’s economy barely hiccupped in 2008. The shekel, its currency, is strong. Like other countries, Israel has a worrisome income gap between rich and poor, but fears of an economic collapse have vanished.

Israel has become an important cultural center, vastly disproportionately for a country whose population approximates that of New York City. When the five finalists for the Man Booker literary prize were announced last year, two were Israelis who write in Hebrew: David Grossman and Amos Oz. Grossman won. . . . Today, Americans and Europeans alike wait hungrily for new episodes of Israeli shows like Fauda, while others (like Homeland and The A-Word) have been remade into American and British series.

On the occasion of Independence Day, Israelis are fully conscious—and deeply proud—of the fact that their country has exceeded the ambitions of the men and women who founded it seven decades ago.

Read more at Bloomberg

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Israel & Zionism, Israeli economy, Israeli Independence Day, Israeli literature, Israeli society