Canada Foreign Policy
Saturday, March 31, 2007
  Peter MacKay Warned

On 23 March 2007 someone in Iran ordered that 15 British marines be captured, using the argument that they were in Iranian waters. British, and indeed world authorities, condemned the move. The Foreign Office has provided evidence the 15 were in Iraqi waters and working to stop smugglers when they found themselves abducted. Yet Teheran insists the Britons violated international law, and in the latest development says the marines will be prosecuted if enough evidence turns up justifying that legal action goes ahead [IRNA, 31 March 2007].

Of course, what some are calling a crisis has much more to do with politics than any kind of law. There is already speculation Teheran acted out of fear that an attack against the Islamic republic was imminent. There is also the argument that the seizure of the 15 may have been undertaken with Teheran seeing itself in a position of strength, and just wanting to gain bargaining chips when it begins negotiating for the release of some of its people. And in the latest twist, some allege the abductions had been long in planning.

Ottawa stands with London: "Canada interjected itself squarely into the hostage standoff between Iran and Britain Friday after dressing down the Iranian envoy in Ottawa, joining the growing international effort to pressure Tehran to release the 15 captured sailors...Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay said he summoned Iran's top diplomat in Canada for a meeting on Thursday to urge Tehran to immediately release 15 British sailors and marines..." [cited in Mike Blanchfield’s ‘Canada Calls Iranian Envoy on Carpet over Seizure of British Sailors,’Canwest News Service, 31 March 2007. Story posted at].

But Teheran reacted, and perhaps not as MacKay might have expected. Iran’s Charge d’Affaires Abbas Asemi warned Canada against merely accepting the British version of events, saying, "Iran harshly protested against the move and meanwhile is pursuing the matter by taking proper and legal measures to solve it. However, the British officials who are aware of the mistake of their marine troops have launched political hues and cries as well as propaganda through media to cover up their wrong-doings and attribute them to others... By resorting to fake evidence, the British government is seeking to distort the realities. This is while all documents and evidences prove the illegal entry of British sailors to Iran's territorial waters. Meanwhile, Iran has called on Britain to accept its mistake" [Asemi cited in ‘Canada Urged to Condemn UK Violations,’ IranMania, 31 March 2007. Posted at].

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Iranian story is that it managed to deflect attention from another recent development involving Canada and the Middle East. During the past week, the moderate Palestinian Information Minister Mustafa Barghouti paid a visit to Ottawa, only to learn that neither PM Stephen Harper nor MacKay would be willing to meet. According to at least one report, Palestinian officials warn the decision by the Tory government means "Canada risks isolation in the Arab world if it does not rescind its ban on meeting with members of the new coalition Palestinian government as the United States, United Nations and much of Europe have done..." [cited in Carolynne Wheeler and Gloria Galloway, ‘Palestinians Warn Canada of Necessity for Dialogue,’ The Globe and Mail, 30 March 2007. Story posted at]. For their part, the Tories stress they are in frequent contact with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and remain supportive of his peace efforts. Nevertheless, as MacKay told the Commons, "Until such time as we see progress in the area of the Quartet principles, which call for the recognition of Israel, which call for the cessation of violence, which call for the road map to be adhered to, we are not going to deal directly with a terrorist organization, namely Hamas" [cited in Wheeler and Galloway].

Posted by Stan Markotich
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Wednesday, March 28, 2007
  Pass the Danish?

War is changing. At least it is for the current generation of Canadians serving in the military. Not for at least half a century have the armed forces encountered the kind of fighting now becoming routine in Afghanistan.

To almost no fanfare over the past week, several reports surfaced explaining Canadian troops will be receiving a counterinsurgency manual sometime later in 2007. While the document may have been in preparation for years, it is likely that only recently policy planners and defence department officials began regarding its issuance with some sense of heightened importance. They may only now be asking: are troops ready for what may begin evolving in Afghanistan later this year? And, can the unthinkable, the possibility of Taliban forces reclaiming territory in the not too distant future, actually come to pass?

Writers Jon Elmer and Anthony Fenton explain that what the armed forces can look forward to is "a 250-page publication, the field manual outlines the principles and practices of fighting the kind of insurgencies that have come to define warfare for the Western powers in the 21st century, in places like Chechnya, Afghanistan and Iraq" [Jon Elmer and Anthony Fenton, "Canada’s Counterinsurgency Strategy," IPS Inter Press Service News Agency, 22 March 2007. Story posted at ]. Insurgencies, or "irregular warfare," have come to define contemporary military encounters, and Elmer and Fenton add this type of conflict "has confounded U.S. and NATO forces in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively, where growing insurgencies have taken a bloody toll on local populations as well as Western troops, and signs of success are few and far between...The increased prominence of the doctrine was recently on display when Gen. David Petraeus, author of the United States Army and Marine Corps counter-insurgency field manual, took command of U.S. forces in Iraq in early 2007."

But profound changes in Canadian policy and military doctrine are likely to receive next to no attention from political leaders, who may even try to keep Afghanistan off the radar as much as possible, and even less in the context of any federal election campaign. Just over a year ago when Canadians last went to the polls, foreign policy issues were nearly absent. And when they did make a cameo appearance, it was over jurisdiction of the Arctic and national sovereignty. It was just over two years ago Denmark’s claim to Hans Island stirred patriotic feelings, and some Canadians demanded the federal government get passionate about exerting control over the Far North. There was flag waving, and "some Canadians even called for a boycott of Danish pastries" [cited in Doug Mellgren’s ‘Riches Await as Earth’s Icy North Melts,’ AP, 24 March 2007. Story Posted at].

But what was or is it about places like Hans Island? Hans’s uninhabited and uninhabitable, so what’s there to stir patriotic fervor? The answer is likely to be found in global warming’s silver lining. While melting in the far north may translate into possible extinction for polar bears and aboriginal cultures, it also means vast amounts of natural resources, including fossil fuels, are made easier for the taking. All that potential profit making already means "regardless of climate change, oil and gas exploration in the Arctic is moving full speed ahead. State-controlled Norwegian oil company Statoil ASA plans to start tapping gas from its offshore Snoehvit field in December, the first in the Barents Sea" [cited in Mellgren]. And all that melting means transportation is being made not only easier, but much more lucrative. For example, "Global warming is also bringing an unexpected bonus to American transportation company OmniTrax Inc., which a decade ago bought the small underutilized Northwest Passage port of Churchill, Manitoba, for a token fee of 10 Canadian dollars (about $8)...The company, which is private, won't say how much money it is making in Churchill, but it was estimated to have moved more than 500,000 tons of grain through the port in 2007" [in Mellgren].

So the last time politicians dared to raise Arctic sovereignty they could do so by appealing to Canadians’ sense of nationalism. Now if Ottawa’s real interest in defending the North is linked to profits made possible or easier by global warming, can Arctic sovereignty really be revived without triggering a public backlash? According to polls over the past few months, global warming and environmental issues are a major concern for ordinary people. Can two kinds of green really be made to coexist?

Pass that Danish?

Posted by Stan Markotich
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Friday, March 16, 2007
  Here's an interesting article. Just delete terms like 'Republican,' 'Democrat,' 'Iraq,' 'Washington,' and substitute 'Conservative,' Liberal,' 'New Democrat,' 'Afghanistan,' 'Ottawa,' and this could be about Canadian foreign policy:

Posted by Stan Markotich
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Sunday, March 11, 2007
  Latest on Afghanistan:

And do these old films, from a long time ago, have no current/contemporary message?

Posted by Stan Markotich
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A discussion of geopolitics and Canada's role in the world. A series of essays to examine the components of Canadian foreign policy making. Psychological, sociological, historical, and cultural variables impacting Canada's perceptions of the world.

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