Vivian Bercovici: Iran’s missiles strike in Israel but they can’t pierce Trudeau’s naiveté
Appeasement has long been the go-to policy for continental Europe. More disturbing is watching Canada adopt the Europeans’ position on Tehran
“If you give us rain, we will give you a flood.” That is the message sent by Israeli Minister of Defence Avigdor Lieberman to Iran. On Wednesday night, Iran fired an estimated 20 missiles at IDF bases in northern Israel. In response, the Israeli Air Force bombed 35 Iranian military sites in Syria, many alarmingly close to the Israeli border.
This represents the first direct clash between Israeli and Iranian military forces and the heaviest episode of armed conflict on the border since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
Benjamin Netanyahu spent the day in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In a briefing with reporters before flying back to Israel after 10 hours of meetings (and a military parade featuring some of the same equipment being used by Iran in Syria), Netanyahu said their top agenda item was the escalating tensions with Iran on Israel’s northern border with Syria. Without divulging much, Netanyahu said he believed Russia had no plans to interfere with any actions Israel took to push back Iran from its borders inside Russian-controlled Syria.
This extraordinary accommodation by Russia follows the announcement by U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday that the United States would withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the treaty that was supposed to contain Iran’s nuclear ambitions. With it, former president Barack Obama was determined to seduce Iran back into the diplomatic family of nations, opting for carrots over sticks. Economic sanctions that were crippling the Iranian economy were lifted, Iran received billions of dollars in cash (which it spent on its military expansionism), and the West squandered any and all leverage it had with a rogue and belligerent regime.
“The West squandered any and all leverage it had with a rogue and belligerent regime”
And what did the West get in return? Beyond alienating America’s longtime allies in the region, virtually nothing. The treaty put no constraints on Iran’s aggressive program to develop ballistic missiles. Experts have dismissed the so-called testing and verification oversight of Iran’s ongoing nuclear program as laughably weak. Meanwhile, many Iranian military sites believed to be used for nuclear weapon development are off-limits to International Atomic Energy Agency (UN) inspectors. And, those locations that are subject to inspection receive 24 days’ prior notice, which gives plenty of time to hide things. And Iran continues to be permitted to enrich uranium up to a certain point. Even if Iran abides by the terms imposed upon it by the JCPOA it will be in a position to “break out” as a full nuclear power within months of the expiry of the agreement, which happens less than a decade from now.
The EU, led these days on foreign policy matters by French President Emmanuel Macron, still believes in honouring the JCPOA even as the U.S. wisely washes its hands of it. But then again, appeasement has long been the go-to policy for continental Europe. More disturbing is watching Canada adopt the Europeans’ position, holus bolus.
“Saudi Arabia and Israel are the countries most directly threatened by Iran. Both are U.S. allies. Both have been against the treaty from the start”
That is wildly inconsistent with the Liberal government’s foreign policy priorities supporting human rights and feminism. In Iran, homosexuals are hanged. Women are jailed for uncovering their hair. And dissent is crushed. On Tuesday, after Trump’s announcement, Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, issued a statement placing her government in opposition to the White House’s decision. “Canada supports an effective rules-based international order, and believes that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is essential to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability and to ensure greater regional and global security.”
Those opposed to the withdrawal say Trump lacks understanding as to what is at stake. His critics complain he has no “Plan B.” In reality, there was never a useful Plan A. Saudi Arabia and Israel are the countries most directly threatened by Iran. Both are U.S. allies. Both have been against the treaty from the start. And both fully support Trump’s decision.
And so do many of Trump’s erstwhile critics at home. As New York Times columnist Bret Stephens explained in support of the withdrawal: “The goal is to put Iran’s rulers to a fundamental choice. They can opt to have a functioning economy, free of sanctions and open to investment, at the price of permanently, verifiably and irreversibly foregoing a nuclear option and abandoning their support for terrorists. Or they can pursue their nuclear ambitions at the cost of economic ruin and possible war. But they are no longer entitled to Barack Obama’s sweetheart deal of getting sanctions lifted first, retaining their nuclear options for later, and sponsoring terrorism throughout.”
Iran attacked Israel Wednesday by launching missiles from Syria. That same day, Iranian-backed forces in Yemen fired missiles at Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The menacing intentions of The Islamic Republic of Iran — to control the Middle East and threaten Israel — are writ large. And the government of Canada says nothing but that it continues to support the Obama plan that laid the groundwork for this extreme situation. That feckless response tells us everything we need to know about the foreign policy of the Trudeau government.
— Vivian Bercovici is Canada’s former ambassador to Israel. She lives in Tel Aviv
Source: NATIONAL POST / Vivian Bercovici in Tel Aviv