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.