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 http://www.canada.com/topics/news/national/story.html?id=87f0c824-c692-444f-a721-96ee75ab2b11&k=5667
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 http://www.iranmania.com/News/ArticleView/Default.asp?NewsCode=50623&NewsKind=Current%20Affairs
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 http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20070330.PALESTINIANS30/TPStory/TPInternational/Africa/
]. 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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