Why did Trudeau pivot to tough­ness on Iran?

The Beacon Herald - - OPINION - AN­THONY FUREY

It was a re­mark­able scene to watch un­fold. On Tues­day af­ter­noon, Canada’s Lib­eral cab­i­net rose to vote on a Con­ser­va­tive mo­tion calling on the govern­ment to get tough on Iran.

There was ev­ery rea­son to be­lieve they’d vote against it. Con­ser­va­tive Sen­a­tors had pre­vi­ously brought for­ward sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion and it was de­feated last month by Justin Trudeau-ap­pointed sen­a­tors. So every­one fig­ured they knew how Tues­day’s vote would go down: Con­ser­va­tives in favour, Lib­er­als mostly against.

Even Speaker Ge­off Re­gan must have thought this. Be­cause af­ter he’d fin­ished tal­ly­ing the “yeas” from the Con­ser­va­tive side he then called to reg­is­ter the “nay” votes, as if he as­sumed the “yeas” were done. Then there were rum­blings. Re­gan re­al­ized there were a few more “yeas” on other benches and re­opened the count.

There were. And the first one to stand up was Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau him­self. Then the whole Lib­eral cab­i­net, fol­lowed by much of the cau­cus, stood up to vote in favour of the mo­tion put for­ward by Con­ser­va­tive MP Gar­nett Genuis.

It’s hard to un­der­state just what a re­ver­sal this rep­re­sents. Trudeau cam­paigned on restor­ing diplo­matic re­la­tions with Iran and this mo­tion calls for the govern­ment to “aban­don its cur­rent plan and im­me­di­ately cease any and all ne­go­ti­a­tions or dis­cus­sion with the Is­lamic Repub­lic of Iran to re­store diplo­matic re­la­tions.” So what Trudeau did by sup­port­ing the mo­tion was sig­nal a com­plete change in the Cana­dian govern­ment’s Iran pol­icy.

The other big ac­tion item in the mo­tion is to add the Is­lamic Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guard Corps to Canada’s list of des­ig­nated ter­ror­ist en­ti­ties. The IRGC ef­fec­tively man­ages the whole econ­omy in Iran.

One rea­son Ira­nian peo­ple have taken to the streets in protest in re­cent months is be­cause few of the spoils that came Iran’s way from the lifting of the sanc­tions fol­low­ing the nu­clear agree­ment made their way to the reg­u­lar peo­ple.

Trudeau has ef­fec­tively sig­nalled to Cana­dian busi­nesses like

Bom­bardier, which was in talks with Iran to sell them jets, they should no longer do busi­ness with the regime.

What ex­act form a new pol­icy takes and when re­main un­clear.

“Public Safety (Canada) has taken note of the views mem­bers of Par­lia­ment ex­pressed in to­day’s vote. How­ever we can­not dis­close what en­ti­ties are be­ing con­sid­ered for list­ing un­der the Crim­i­nal Code ter­ror­ist list­ing regime,” said Scott Bard­s­ley, spokesper­son for Public Safety Min­is­ter Ralph Goodale. He also noted the IRGC’s Qods Force is al­ready listed as a ter­ror­ist en­tity.

“I can’t claim to un­der­stand the thought process of the Lib­eral govern­ment to re­ject list­ing the IRGC a ter­ror­ist en­tity in a bill and then ac­cept it to­day via Con­ser­va­tive mo­tion,” Con­ser­va­tive Sen. Linda Frum said fol­low­ing the vote. “I’m just de­lighted that the Lib­eral govern­ment has seen the er­ror of its ways and rec­og­nizes that the IRGC is a ter­ror­ist en­tity that de­serves to be shunned and con­demned by the govern­ment of Canada.”

It’s not yet clear why Trudeau made such a public about-face. Per­haps it had some­thing to do with Ira­nian Supreme Leader Ay­a­tol­lah Khamenei’s re­cent so­cial me­dia post about “erad­i­cat­ing ” Is­rael, which drew strong con­dem­na­tion from Jewish Lib­eral MPs. Maybe, as one na­tional se­cu­rity source sug­gested, U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump pres­sured Trudeau on the broader is­sue at the G7. Or it’s about seek­ing sup­port from Canada’s Ira­nian dis­si­dent com­mu­nity, who have grown frus­trated with Trudeau.

Or maybe it was far sim­pler: Trudeau had a change of heart and de­cided this was the right thing to do. Time will tell, but a wel­come sur­prise. afurey@post­media.com

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