Does Canada know something about Iran and Israel the rest of us don’t? More than a couple of Hot Air readers posed that question after Canada announced that they would cut all diplomatic ties with the Iranians and pull their embassy out of Tehran. In fact, all of their diplomatic personnel had already left by the time the announcement was made, and Canada ordered any remaining Iranian diplomats to leave Canada as well. However, the Harper government insisted that this was not prompted by any inside information on Israeli or Iranian intentions, but on the continuing intransigence on the mullahcracy’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and unnamed but multiple violations of Vienna Convention rules on treatment of diplomats:
Canada has placed Iran on its list of state sponsors of terrorism and has shut down its embassy in Tehran, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said.
Baird, speaking to reporters ahead of the opening of the annual summit of Pacific nation leaders here, said the skeleton Canadian Embassy staff in Tehran has been withdrawn for their own safety.
Canada is also expelling all Iranian diplomats in Canada.
“Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today,” Baird said. “The government of Canada is formally listing Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.”
Baird said the federal government is also officially warning Canadians not to travel to Iran.
“We feel that it’s no longer safe to have representatives of the government of Canada in Tehran,” Baird said.
The most intriguing part of the Canadian complaint is “repeated violations of the Vienna Convention which governs diplomatic relations between most countries of the world”. Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations has been established since 1961 under the auspices of the UN, and goes into detail on the treatment of diplomats, missions and consulates, and communications. It’s safe to say that a number of countries routinely violate this in petty and significant ways; the US and the Soviet Union had its fun with Article 27, which gave missions and consulates a guarantee and protection of “free communication” and the “inviolab[ility]” of official correspondence during the last three decades of the Cold War.
Either Canada threw this in to give a comprehensive approach to severing ties — diplomatically the most extreme act short of war itself — or the Iranians have become very aggressive in these violations. That wouldn’t come as a surprise, since the mullahs conducted the worst peacetime violation ever seen of Article 22 in 1979 by sacking the American embassy and taking diplomatic personnel hostage for 444 days. Canada heroically rescued a handful of Americans who managed to slip away in the initial confusion by assigning them Canadian passports and false identities through the Tehran embassy they’re closing now, and sneaking them out of the country. Obviously nothing that egregious has occurred recently, but Baird specifically mentioned the safety of diplomatic personnel in Tehran. Considering the Iranian track record, it’s a wonder that any country feels safe having diplomatic personnel in the Iranian capital, especially these days.
Diplomatically, the Canadians have traditionally been seen as reasonable and humble. It takes a great deal to offend them to the point of severing diplomatic ties. If this has no connection to potential action by Israel, it will certainly embarrass the Iranians in the short run, and make it more difficult for them to tell their oppressed subjects that their foreign policy isn’t producing the isolation that most of them see with their own eyes.