Updates on Iran and North Korea plus “Andrew Scheer’s pre-election puffery”

This week we look at the perilous state of the Iran nuclear deal and the international implications of new short-range missile tests by North Korea.  Plus, we introduce a new feature on pre-election puffery.


Responding to the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure”, Iran has announced it will no longer respect all the limits placed on its nuclear research activities by its 2015 deal with world powers. With Washington having renounced the deal, the remaining signatories should hasten to save it.

So begins the clarion call from the respected International Crisis Group for urgent action by the Europeans, Russia and China to prevent the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) from unravelling. See: Iran Challenges Remaining Partners to Save Nuclear Deal (crisisgroup.org, 8 May 2019).

For those tempted to condemn Iran for these carefully calibrated steps away from the nuclear deal, they need to explain how that country is supposed to continue to meet its obligation to sell its excess heavy water and low enriched uranium (LEU) when the USA has threatened to sanction any country that tries to buy these materials from them!

Again, in the words of the ICG report,

the Trump administration had rendered compliance with these commitments nearly impossible for Tehran.

But it is not just the Iran nuclear deal that is at stake. The Trump administration’s real goal isn’t a better arms control deal but the deluded dream of coercive regime change in Iran.

As The Nation reports in an article ominously entitled Trump and Bolton are putting war with Iran on a hair trigger (Bob Dreyfuss, thenation.com, 7 May 2019),

senators Tom Udall of New Mexico and Dick Durbin of Illinois, … were alarmed enough to write an op-ed in The Washington Post, in which they warned, “Sixteen years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, we are again barreling toward another unnecessary conflict in the Middle East based on faulty and misleading logic.”

The initial response from Europe has not been encouraging as they predictably rejected the 60-day deadline set by Iran for concrete economic assistance to materialize. But the European Union and other European co-signatories of the deal did at least reiterate their determination “to continue pursuing efforts to enable the continuation of legitimate trade with Iran”.

As for the response of Russia, China and others, see: China and India seen as Europe’s last hope to save Iran deal (Robin Emmott, John Irish and Paul Carrel, reuters.com, 9 May 2019).

Whither Canada?

Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland once again avoided any possible critique of America’s reckless brinkmanship. While nominally supporting the international rule of law and the JCPOA, the Global Affairs statement at the time of the American abrogation of the nuclear deal devoted much more verbiage to parroting American complaints about Iran’s foreign policy.

See: Canada reaffirms support for Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Global Affairs Canada, 8 May 2018.

North Korea

On 4 May, North Korea resumed short-range missile launches after a lengthy hiatus.

For an excellent discussion on the possible motivations behind, and responses to, this action by North Korea, see: Why did Pyongyang fire new missiles?  (Inside Story, Aljazeera.com, 4 May 2019).

For the latest developments, including a second round of missile tests on 9 May, see the Reuters article by Josh Smith: Missiles like these will start the war’: North Korea tests showcase growing capability (reuters.com, 10 May 2019).

Despite the alarming Reuters headline, the article notes that both South Korea and the American administration have downplayed the tests. South Korean President Moon-Jae-in described the launches as a possible “protest over the failed [Hanoi] summit.” Meanwhile President Trump and other U.S. officials have emphasized the inability of the missiles in question to reach the United States.

One thing seems certain, however: North Korean President Kim Jong-un will continue to look for ways to break the current diplomatic stalemate and obtain much-desired sanctions relief.

Whither Canada?

Sadly, despite the acute need for fresh diplomatic thinking of the kind for which Canada used to be known, no such efforts have been made.

Pre-election puffery from federal Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer

A 7 May 2019  CBC online headline declares:

In his first major foreign policy speech, Scheer takes aim at ‘disastrous’ Trudeau.

Astonishingly the Conservative party website does not include a copy of this “major” speech by its leader, Andrew Scheer, but it can be seen and heard via Youtube video.  See: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnr_oQdWsS4

In this speech, Andrew Scheer:

  • Blames the Trudeau government for mishandling our relationship with the USA but sheds no light on how a government he led would fare better with the truculent Donald Trump;
  • Promises a total “reset” on Canada–China relations without any details on how the Conservatives would handle the most significant point of contention — whether to ban Huawei from so-called 5G wireless networks because of American security concerns;
  • Pledges to be more active in diplomatic hot spots by “standing closer to Israel” and further isolating Canada from international law and Palestinian rights;
  • Commits to restoring and investing in Canada’s military — a promise made despite the 70% increase in defence spending announced back in June 2016 by the Justin Trudeau government;
  • Adamantly asserts Canada’s sovereignty over the Arctic, presumably with Russia in mind, but in apparent abject ignorance of the long-standing and recently reiterated American rejection of Canada’s most important Arctic claim — the Northwest Passage; and
  • Undertakes to restart negotiations with the USA over possible Canadian participation in the biggest of all American military boondoggles — at well over $50 billion and counting — the unworkable strategic ballistic missile defence system.

RI President and a former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament Peggy Mason dismissed the comments on defence policy thusly:

The only thing more ridiculous than Scheer’s grab-bag of expensive defence-spending promises is his nonsensical declaration that he will take the politics out of procurement. He might as well promise to take the politics out of politics.

For more analysis on Scheer’s defence policy pronouncements, see: Scheer rolls out an ambitious defence agenda, but critics ask: Where’s the money? (Murray Brewster, cbc.ca/news, 8 May 2019).


Photo credit: Canadian Forces



Tags: "maximum pressure", "minimum response", Andrew Scheer, Canadian Arctic sovereignty, Canadian defence policy, Canadian foreign policy, Conservative Party Leader, Global Affairs Canada, Hanoi Summit, Iran nuclear deal, JCPOA, North Korea, Northwest Passage, short range missiles