Rideau Institute President on Iran nuclear deal

Nuclear negotiations with Iran in Vienna, Austria on July 14th, 2015.


I am writing this blog post not only as RI President, but as a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament to the United Nations.   I had much direct experience of negotiations with Iran, in the context of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty review process and in many other arms control negotiations at the UN.  Of course that was at a time when Canada’s foreign policy was not based on much sound and fury and little substance but, instead, on a steadfast commitment to, and demonstrated talent for, diplomacy as the means to achieve the peaceful resolution of disputes, as the UN Charter obliges member states to do.

The Iran nuclear deal is an excellent agreement on its merits, relying not on trust but on tough international verification measures.   Daryl Kimball, the Executive Director of the Washington-based Arms Control Association, puts it thus:

The deal is a major nuclear nonproliferation breakthrough that promises to prevent the emergence of another nuclear-armed state and head off a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region.

But, equally important, this agreement is infinitely better than all of the alternatives. The first alternative is to kill the deal, leaving virtually no restraints on Iran’s nuclear program.  The second is war, with unimaginable consequences for further destabilizing a region already devastated by the utterly disastrous American invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The third alternative is to walk away from this deal and press for tougher sanctions in the hope of getting better terms later, in the meantime leaving Iran free to move even faster toward a nuclear weapon, should it want to do so.  Under this scenario, the US Congress might well pass tougher sanctions. However, there is much less appetite for this approach in the rest of the international community and therefore a high likelihood that the overall international sanctions regime would lose its coherence and start to fracture.  In other words, Iran would end up with weaker sanctions without having submitted to the very tough verification regime hammered out in the current agreement.

Already some representatives of Jewish groups in Canada are urging the Canadian government, if not to outright oppose the deal, then to set our own timetable for reducing Canadian sanctions against Iran.  That would be a mistake, and, in my view, would do Israel no favours. While Prime Minister Netanyahu’s opposition to the deal is loud and clear, many others, including former Israeli security chiefs  like Meir Dagan, believe their country’s security interests are better served with this deal than without.

The agreement’s many supporters, myself included, believe that it has the potential to reshape relations between the United States and Iran, to diminish the chances of another war in the Middle East, and to set a new standard for negotiated nuclear non-proliferation.

I call on the Harper government and all the opposition parties to immediately pledge their full support for this historic agreement.

Peggy Mason, a former Canadian ambassador for disarmament to the UN, is the president of the Rideau Institute on International Affairs, an independent advocacy and research think tank in Ottawa.

Photo credit: Dragan Tatic for Bundesministerium für Europa, Integration und Äusseres, Flickr (Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs)

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10 Responses to “Rideau Institute President on Iran nuclear deal”

  1. Judith DeutschJuly 22, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    You write that “some representatives of Jewish groups in Canada…..” The link is to a Globe and Mail article that does not include any information about any Jewish representatives or groups. Independent Jewish Voices Canada and Jewish Voice for Peace US strongly support the nuclear agreement (see website link above). In fact, the major anti-nuclear weapons NGOs have been shockingly silent about Israel’s nuclear arsenal over the years. And very disturbingly, Israel was allowed to derail the efforts at the recent NPT Rev Conference to take all nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert. It is certainly the U.S. and that presents the gravest threat of a first-strike nuclear war.

  2. Howard DoughtyJuly 16, 2015 at 4:39 am #

    Peggy Mason makes only one mistake. She says that a war with Iran would have “unimaginable consequences.” Alas, the potential consequences are all too imaginable.

    From Hiroshima to the state of permanent war in Iraq, there are ample indications of what such a conflict might bring.

    I can already hear the objections from the bellicose minority from Harper to Netanyahu invoking the analogy to Chamberlain in 1938 and ceaseless comparisons of the Iranian regime to the Third Reich. Though wildly inaccurate and misleading, these false claims need to be recognized and confronted.

  3. Christina RobertsJuly 15, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

    Very good news, and thank you so much for the enlightening analysis, Peggy!

  4. Caroline MaloneyJuly 15, 2015 at 5:20 pm #

    Thanks for the clarification on the Iran Nuclear Deal, Peggy! Knew I could get an insightful, honest analysis of what was involved in the deal from Ceasefire!

  5. dimitriJuly 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm #

    I wholeheartedly agree with you Peggy Mason. Cool heads must prevail in this situation, because the alternative is potentially unpredictable and devastating.

    Isn’t it odd that Israel is voicing the loudest objection, when it itself possesses over 200 nuclear warheads and is not a member of the NPT?

  6. Dr. David Lorge ParnasJuly 15, 2015 at 12:29 pm #

    Wouldn’t be nice if all countries in the world would agree to such a regime? It might make the NPR work. Why are we restricting the inspections regime to Iran?

  7. Verda PetryJuly 15, 2015 at 12:18 pm #

    A very reasonable analysis by Peggy Mason.

  8. Verda PetryJuly 15, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

    A very reasonable analysis.

  9. Carol PickuipJuly 15, 2015 at 11:33 am #

    Thanks for your insightful comments Peggy!!