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)