Netanyahu, Harper threaten Iran

Douglas Roche and Ernie Regehr

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was in Ottawa recently promoting a pre-emptive military attack upon Iran. He visited with his friend and close ally Stephen Harper prior to going to Washington in an attempt to pressure President Obama into supporting his doomsday scenario. Contenders for the Republican nomination were only too happy to beat the same war drum. In Canada, Mr. Harper earlier had obligingly gone out of his way to tell journalists that Iran was the largest single threat to the world’s future and security. Mr. Harper said he had “watched and listened to what the leadership in the Iran regime says, and it frightens me.” Our bold warrior would do well to heed the words and actions of Douglas Roche, Murray Thomson and Ernie Regehr. I’ll get back to their plan in a minute. They are wiser by far than our intemperate leaders.

Attack Iran

Netanyahu, along with his Conservative and Republican cheerleaders, wants to attack Iran because they say it is developing a capacity to build nuclear weapons. There have already been several assassinations carried out on Iranian scientists working in the nuclear program. The obvious perpetrator is Israel and that country has not even bothered to categorically deny its involvement – preferring to warn of more to come. Think, for a moment, of what the response would be if Israeli, American or Canadian scientists were assassinated on their home soil.

False claims

Is Iran developing nuclear weapons as is claimed by the Israelis and Mr. Harper? It may be, and if so that is, indeed, cause for alarm. But we should by now be wary of false claims. George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld claimed to have proof that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons as well and they used that information to launch a ruinous war in 2003. Hans Blix and other inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency were on the ground in Iraq, where they found nothing. They begged for more time to carry out their inspections but were ridiculed by the Bush administration. 

The claims made by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld turned out to be bald-faced lies. In an international system based on justice rather than on the power that accrues to victors, one or all of these gentlemen might today be in The Hague facing accusations of being war criminals.

20,000 weapons

Let us assume that Iran is on a path toward producing a nuclear weapon. If so, that should be opposed – and is – through diplomatic pressure and an economic boycott that is reportedly biting deeply. But let’s provide some context here. The Federation of American Scientists says there are almost 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world. Scott Taylor a former Canadian soldier who writes knowledgeably on military affairs, says, “In an international context, the nuclear-armed community, led by the U.S., has a collective arsenal capable of wiping out the entire planet several times over.”

There are nine countries that possess nuclear weapons, including Israel, which has an estimated 200 nuclear warheads and the missile systems with which to deliver them. Mr. Netanyahu never talks about that and refuses to even discuss it. Surely a nuclear Israel must frighten its neighbours in the Middle East and destabilize the region.

A world divided

Debbie Grisdale of Ottawa, who serves on the board for the ecumenical peace group Project Ploughshares, says, “Currently the world is divided into countries that can have nuclear weapons — and think that it is their right to possess them — and those countries that cannot have them. Why is it okay for some countries to have them and others not? The complete elimination of nuclear weapons, at the very least a treaty banning them – would mean that is not okay for any country to have nuclear weapons. The world has a treaty banning chemical and one banning biological weapons – why not nuclear weapons?”

Sling shot vs machine guns

Let us again assume that Iran is on the path to developing a weapon. what does that mean in perspective? Here is Scott Taylor’s analysis: “Should Iran someday soon produce enough enriched uranium to create one nuclear warhead, and someday soon acquire a missile delivery system with intercontinental capability, it would then possess a single threat to international targets, including North America.

“It is like a showdown between a solitary gunman holding a single-shot pistol against a heavily armed gang toting machine guns. In such a case, it would be suicidal for Iran to initiate hostilities.”

Taylor says that when this scenario was pointed out to Prime Minister Harper it did nothing to change his analysis. “I’m not sure that would dissuade them,” Harper reportedly said. “We’re dealing with a fanatical and dangerous regime.”

In other words, we are the good guys. They are the fanatics. Or at John Baird, the foreign affairs minister, said in his recent visit to Israel – they are the black hats and we are the white hats.

Thankfully, President Obama is not accepting these simplistic truisms as analysis. At a news conference during Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, Obama warned against the “loose talk of war” and talked of the need to give diplomacy a chance. But it is an election year, and he is being derided as a wimp and prodded into action by Republican warmongers and the pro-Israel lobby.

Peace elders

I spoke above of three wise elders. They are Murray Thomson of Ottawa, Ernie Regehr of Waterloo and Douglas Roche of Edmonton. All three are eminent citizens and recipients of the Order of Canada, our most distinguished award for public service. They have convinced 552 recipients of the Order to sign a letter calling on the Canadian government to take the lead in urging international negotiations to achieve a Nuclear Weapons Convention – a verifiable treaty on the prohibition and elimination of those weapons. Some of their fellow Order of Canada recipients supporting this call include Margaret Atwood, Roméo Dallaire, Stephen Lewis, David Suzuki and Jean Vanier.

These are dangerous times. While our Prime Minister and Israel’s talk about attacking Iran, Thomson, Roche and Regehr are on another track – they say get rid of nuclear weapons altogether. They are the “white hats” as far as I am concerned.

Contact a member

You can check the list of those members of the Order of Canada who have signed on to the proposal by clicking HERE. If you know any OC members who have not yet signed, please urge them to do so.

6 thoughts on “Netanyahu, Harper threaten Iran

  1. I agree with you in principle. But there are a couple of things that might cause some to draw away form supporting the initiative.

    One is that many are not able to support something that is not factual. No one knows who assassinated the scientists in Iran, and in the cauldron of murderous politics in some places (as opposed to the wordy type we have in Canada), the possibilities are endless. We shudder at being in the position of elected leaders who must rely on information from government sources of ever shifting allegiance such as inspectors and intelligence.

    Didn’t we read in the paper that Prime Minister Harper was the first not to encourage Mr. Netanyahu? Iran’s leaders say that their priority is to get rid of Israel. Canada, US, India and others just want to get on with things. There’s a difference. Mr. Harper needs to hear support for his relatively dove like utterances to Mr. Netanyahu, whether or not people support him on other things.


    1. Thanks for your comment Lois. It is true that Mr. Harper said at the end of his recent visit with Israeli PM Netanyahu that he wants to see a diplomatic solution to the stand off with Iran. Fair enough. But he also went out his way several weeks ago to introduce a discussion of Iran with journlalists, to talk about how “scary” Iran is and how “fanatical” its leadership is. I am no fan of the Iranian government but if we step out of our own skins for a moment we can see that they must be afraid. Their scientists are being assassinated on home soil and there is a frequent drumbeat about attacking them, originating mainly from the Israeli government and from Republican politicians in the US. Both Israel and the US already possess nuclear weaspons. You talk of “Canada, US, India and others just want to get on with things.” That is a benign view of the intentions of those governments, not to mention soem of their history. Scott Taylor, the former Canadian soldier turned journalist, writes that in the 67 years in which nuclear weaponry has existed, only the U.S. government has ever used such a weapon of mass destruction against human targets – in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I can understand why the Iranians would be fearful. Let’s all hope that talk can settle this.


  2. Thank you for a very timely piece. The references to some countries being allowed to have nuclear weapons and others not, relate to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which was “opened for signatures” in 1968. But negotiations for it had started a decade earlier and, according to Georges Ignatieff, father of Michael, an important player in moving those negotiations forward was the Hon Howard Green, Canada’s External Affairs Minister in John Diefenbaker’s Progressive Conservative government.


  3. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Prime Minister Steven Harper wants to bomb Iran. After all, our Prime Minister is a man who never met a war he didn’t like, provided, of course, that he doesn’t actually have to carry a rifle and do any of the ‘heavy lifting’ himself. Harper knows full well that that the price in blood for his military megalomania will be paid by others, so he desperately searches for any conflict that can justify his vision of Canada as a military camp awaiting marching orders from Washington.

    Steven Harper was, after all, a most enthusiastic supporter of the illegal invasion of Iraq some years ago. When all but the most willfully blind and mentally-challenged had realized George Bush’s war was based on a conspiracy of lies and deceit, Steven Harper still wanted Canada to take part in the criminal enterprise.

    Canada used to be a respected ‘peace maker’ on the world stage. But that’s not good enough for Steven Harper. For our Prime Minister, the hard work of making peace just doesn’t compare with the pomp and splendor of wrapping oneself in the flag and crying “death to the enemy” while the hard of thinking roar their approval.

    One thing for sure – our Prime Minister will never be mistaken for a ‘peace maker’ or anything like one of those weirdo Christians who believes in beating swords into plough shares, feeding the hungry, and similar schemes for helping the poor that Tories are convinced would sap Canada of its moral fiber.

    Indeed, since almost half a million Canadian children live in poverty and Harper is spending billions on fighter jets and other weapons of war, one might say our Prime Minister is an advocate of gleefully beating plough shares into swords.

    Some years ago, a comedian said that ‘if Jesus came back tomorrow, he’d never stop puking.’ When one examines the transformation from ‘peace maker’ to ‘war monger’ that Harper has in mind for Canada, one realizes that there was a lot more truth in the comic’s one-liner than most people realized at the time…


  4. Thanks for an insightful report, especially since all the media–from the CBC and the Globe & Mail on down–are beating the war drums. The whole situation doesn’t make sense. The Israelis have been claiming that Iran was “a year or two” away from having a bomb since 1982, and are always threatening to start a war. While the Iranians may not be anywhere near having a bomb (even assuming they wanted one–their leader after all declared nuclear weapons “sinful”) they have enough guns and missiles to shut off the oil and LNG supplies from the Gulf for months. And since the only way to open the Gulf would be to send in ground troops to occupy the Iranian shore, any war could not be limited to a few air strikes. So what does Harper gain from his blank cheque to the Israelis?


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