After over a year of threatening and weeks of teasing, Donald Trump pulled the United States out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (colloquially known as the Iran Nuclear Deal) Wednesday. Basically, the deal forbid Iran from developing and holding nuclear weapons of any kind and in return, lifted harsh sanctions against the country which were crippling to its economy. The U.S. pulling out of the deal – also signed by France, Germany, the U.K., China, Russia and the E.U. – destabilizes it in a way that could lead to Iran eventually developing (and using) nuclear weapons. Not. Good.
Trump’s move was pretty much universally condemned by world leaders both those who had signed onto the deal (including Iran) and those who just like to live in a safe world. Canada’s position was that while the deal had its flaws, pulling out was a mistake.
“We need to ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons capacities and the JCPOA — while not a perfect agreement — has marked a significant step in that direction and it’s holding Iran to account,” Justin Trudeau told reporters, “We regret that the United States has chosen to step out but the international community will continue to try to move forward in a way that holds Iran to that deal and demonstrates that we believe in peace and stability in the region comes with positive engagement.”
1/2 Canada regrets the decision of #US to withdraw from the #JCPOA. We believe that it’s is the best tool to prevent #Iran from developing a nuclear weapons capability. We will continue to work hard with our partners to ensure regional & global security. https://t.co/2x0DTOhMMa
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) May 8, 2018
2/2 Canada is also committed to holding Iran to account for its violations of human and democratic rights. As long as Maryam Mombeini is not able to leave Iran, the focus of any discussions with Iran will be on getting her home to Canada.
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) May 8, 2018
While world leaders were condemning the move, a group of former world leaders were in support of the president’s decision. An international group of former prime ministers, foreign ministers and military leaders, including former Prime Minister Stephen Harper, took out a full-page advertisement in the Thursday New York Times to voice their support for the controversial decision.
The letter, entitled “Mr. President, you were right about Iran,” explains that the undersigned opposed the deal to begin with and are in “complete support of [Trump’s] leadership on Iran.” They call the country a “dangerous regime” and say that they “must never be allowed to possess a nuclear option – not a bomb, not a path to a bomb, not a nuclear program.” They believe that the JCPOA as it stands is not sufficient to prevent Iran from nuclear development and should be scrapped for a much stricter agreement.
— Rafael Bardaji (@rafael_bardaji) May 9, 2018
The letter concludes: “We stand alongside you [President Trump] in ending the dangerous appeasement of Iran and taking all and any action required to stop Iran going nuclear, help its people, halt its spreading of terror and achieve peace and stability in the Middle East and among all peoples and nations.” That’s a pretty sweeping approval.
Harper’s involvement – and possible leadership – in the letter turned heads in Canada, especially since he is the first undersigned and used his official title of Prime Minister. Critics said it sends a conflicting message about Canada’s position when the current Prime Minister and a former Prime Minister offer opposite statements on a global issue. Trudeau, however, defended Harper’s right to express his own opinions.
“Mr. Harper is a private citizen and is allowed his own opinions,” Trudeau said, “But as for the government of Canada we take a firm position that the JCPOA – while not a perfect accord – certainly is a very positive step holding Iran to account and preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons which would be a threat not just to the region but to global stability.
“We are going to continue to insist that Canadian foreign policy will be established in Canada and not in Washington or elsewhere around the world and I think it’s a question for the current Conservative Party as to whether or not they agree with their former leader.”
Canada’s Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan took a different stance. He called Harper’s actions “not helpful” and asserted that the former leader should leave it up to the current leadership to make public international statements on foreign policy.
“A nation needs to speak with one voice and Canadians have elected a government to speak on their behalf,” Sajjan said, “This doesn’t help but this is not surprising. This is something the Harper government has done in the past.”
Conservative MPs who have spoken to the media on the issue have said they do not have a problem with Harper’s stance and the fact that he expressed it.