FUREY: Trudeau just made a major pivot towards toughness with his Iran policy

by Anthony Furey

June 12, 2018

Source: Toronto Sun

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau rises during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, June 12, 2018.Justin Tang / The Canadian Press

It was a remarkable scene to watch unfold. On Tuesday afternoon, Canada’s Liberal cabinet rose to vote on a Conservative motion calling on the government to get tough on Iran.

There was every reason to believe they’d vote against it. Conservative Senators had previously brought forward similar legislation and it was defeated last month by Justin Trudeau-appointed Senators. So everyone figured they knew how Tuesday’s vote would go down: Conservatives in favour, Liberals mostly against.

Even Speaker Geoff Regan must have thought this. Because after he’d finished tallying the “yeas” from the Conservative side he then called to register the “nay” votes, as if he assumed the “yeas” were done. Then there were rumblings. Regan realized that maybe there were a few more “yeas” kicking around on other benches and reopened the count.

There were. And the first one to stand up was Prime Minister Justin Trudeau himself. Then the whole Liberal cabinet, followed by much of the caucus, stood up to vote in favour of the motion put forward by Conservative MP Garnett Genuis.

It’s hard to understate just what a reversal this represents. Trudeau campaigned on restoring diplomatic relations with Iran and this motion calls for the government to “abandon its current plan and immediately cease any and all negotiations or discussion with the Islamic Republic of Iran to restore diplomatic relations.”

So what Trudeau did by standing up in support of an opposition MP’s mere motion was to signal a complete change in the Canadian government’s Iran policy. What had previously been characterized as a policy of appeasement now appears to be one rooted in toughness and holding the regime to account for their conduct.

The other big action item in the motion is to add the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to Canada’s list of designated terrorist entities. The IRGC effectively manages the whole economy in Iran.

One reason the people have taken to the streets in protest in recent months is because few of the spoils that came Iran’s way from the lifting of the sanctions following the nuclear agreement actually made their way to the regular people.

Trudeau has effectively signaled to Canadian businesses like Bombardier, which was in talks with Iran to sell them jets, that they should no longer be doing business with the regime.

While Tuesday’s vote was just a motion, the fact the PM and his cabinet voted for it tells you it’s basically now government policy. What exact form that policy takes and when it will be put into place remains unclear.

The Sun reached out to the Prime Minister’s Office to ask when the IRGC would be officially designated a terrorist entity. The PMO referred the Sun to Public Safety Canada, which did not immediately respond to questions.

“I can’t claim to understand the thought process of the Liberal government to reject listing the IRGC a terrorist entity in a bill and then accept it today via Conservative motion,” Conservative Senator Linda Frum told the Sun following the vote. “I’m just delighted that the Liberal government has seen the error of its ways and recognizes that the IRGC is a terrorist entity that deserves to be shunned and condemned by the government of Canada.”

Frum was one of the leading champions of the defeated Senate legislation. “It took them three years to get to this place but I’m glad they finally did,” she added.

It’s not yet clear why Trudeau made such a public about-face on the issue. Perhaps it had something to do with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s recent social media post about “eradicating” Israel, which drew strong condemnation from Jewish Liberal MPs. Or maybe, as one national security source suggested to the Sun, U.S. President Donald Trump pressured Trudeau on the broader issue at the G7. Or it’s about seeking support from Canada’s Iranian dissident community, who have grown increasingly frustrated with Trudeau.

Or maybe it was far simpler: That Trudeau had a change of heart and decided this was the right thing to do. Time will tell. But what a welcome surprise.