Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Monday, January 25, 2010

Canada-Iran Relations, Ugh

The insiders have the inside story. Not that there's all that often much to be gained by airing the inside story. And in the case of the three-decades-old escapade revolving around the Canadian-aided rescue of American diplomats from newly-revolutionary Iran, the story lives on. As though former Canadian Ambassador to Iran Ken Taylor hasn't dined out sufficiently on that brief moment with destiny...

Comes a newly-published revelation of that time in 1980 when a Canadian ambassador earned the love and adulation of the American public, revealing that that selfsame ambassador turned diplomacy into a risky, risque stab at intrigue, and intelligence-gathering on behalf of its North American neighbour. A tell-all book, Our Man in Tehran, by a former diplomatic colleague of Mr. Taylor is revelatory, and possibly troublesome.

It would appear that one of Canada's diplomats engaged in espionage. And while famously many countries do just that - political and commercial and military espionage when they can get away with it and not be detected - it is always officially and strenuously denied. For it is, after all, a forbidden activity according to diplomatic convention. Diplomats act in trust and extend trust, country-to-country.

That, at least, is the observable and officially-sanctioned international accord.
.1. The functions of a diplomatic mission consist inter alia in:
(a) representing the sending State in the receiving State;
(b) protecting in the receiving State the interests of the sending State
and of its nationals, within the limits permitted by international
(c) negotiating with the Government of the receiving State;
(d) ascertaining by all lawful means conditions and developments in the
receiving State, and reporting thereon to the Government of the
sending State;
(e) promoting friendly relations between the sending State and the
receiving State, and developing their economic, cultural and
scientific relations.

2. Nothing in the present Convention shall be construed as preventing the
performance of consular functions by a diplomatic mission.

Somehow, events conspired to overturn diplomatic niceties; for after all, wasn't the sparkling new Islamic Republic of Iran behaving in an extremely uncivil, undiplomatic manner in encouraging its students and its Republican Guard to behave in such an unseemly manner toward the official embassy of another country toward whose personnel and the status of its 'territory' Iran had an obligation of protection under the Geneva Convention?

In any event, what's that old saying? Two wrongs do not a right make? Piffle.

"I was ready to do what they asked", a much older and perhaps still less-wise Ken Taylor informed Canwest News Service. "I was working within the framework of my traditional Canadian diplomatic operations." Not so, says a professor at the Munk Centre of International Studies at the University of Toronto, a well-respected international affairs expert. Official diplomacy and espionage do not mix well.

"Embassy staff may find themselves in a situation like the Canadian Embassy in Moscow during the Cold War. Things are going to get a lot more complicated." Harassment, for example of Canadian officials within Iran. Now that's rich. Canada has been on Iran's case since Canadian-Iranian photo-journalist Zahra Kazemi died in Iranian custody on July 11, 2003.

And has, ever since, publicly deplored that country's egregious human rights abuses. Famously bringing one annual condemnation of Iran after another to the General Assembly of the United Nations, and just managing, through strenuous lobbying, to get them passed. So the countries are at moral loggerheads, and there is no diplomatic respect lost between them.

With this added information to Iran's irate arsenal of charges against Canada, in response to Canada's against it, it's entirely likely that Canada's effectiveness within Iran is now placed in jeopardy. Freedom of information has no limits, but discretion occasionally indeed is the better part of valour.

Given, of course, certain untidy circumstances.

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