Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Harper: Right about Iran, but on the tar sands and "outsiders" ...

This week, the Prime Minister expressed aloud concerns many of us Canadian of all stripes have had either openly or privately – that Iran is a ticking time bomb with its nuclear program which without a shadow of a doubt has only one aim, to create a nuclear bomb that would threaten Israel. Meanwhile, the PM has been critical of “outside interference” in the debate over piping the oil sands south and west.

The priorities of the Western alliance got totally distracted by the Iraq debacle when it should have been aimed squarely at North Korea and Iran. And while Canada would almost certainly have no choice in the matter should there be a war, and hopefully one with only conventional weapons, there is also no doubt we should have done a more persuasive job in using our “good offices” (such that they are) to help calm things down, given that we have direct relations with Iran and the United States still does not, over thirty years after the hostage crisis ended.

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz which would choke off oil supplies from Qatar, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates; but it would also have the result of of Iran blockading itself. So no one can really take that one seriously. But its willingness to crush internal dissent as well as diverting massive resources that could be feeding and educating its people but instead going into a fanatical voyage over the atom cannot be ignored. It rigged two elections in a row and loudly supports honour killings of women.

The whole idea of “Atoms for Peace,” as Eisenhower called it in the 1950s – the Fifties! -- is really a joke. Once you can control the atom, you can do almost anything, just short of being God (although you can certainly pretend to be the Almighty). No doubt nuclear energy has had its benefits in terms of power generation and practical uses ranging from irradiating food to nuclear medicine. But the ability to make weapons grade fuel, like Canada can, carries with it huge responsibilities.

While the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regularly inspects our nuclear facilities, you never hear about it on the news because we comply fully with our international obligations. It's time for the world to take a firm and unequivocal stand with Iran. Iran has to open up their facilities, all of them, or face suspension from all UN agencies on which Iran has a seat. For a country that really doesn't care about world opinion, it may not mean much, but such shunning may spark the kind of revolt that has carried across much of the rest of the Middle East.

Briefly, as for Canada – well, as a democracy, we have to be willing to accept outside criticism of our policies as many in this country have those same anti-government views. The old saying goes, we hold our friends close and our enemies closer but we also hold our allies to a higher standard. Or in this case, to the standard that our allies hold us.  We should be living up to that standard, quite frankly. The pipelines are almost certainly going to be built even if they are delayed for a time. That doesn't mean we can't listen to reasonable criticism and make alterations to the routes that ameliorate as much as possible the potential damage; while also settling once and for all the ensuing Aboriginal land claims as well.

Guess that makes James Cameron and Raffi Cavoukian agitators as much as Robert Redford and Kevin Bacon -- even though the former two are Canadians.   I don't really like Cameron (for all the obvious reasons) and I outgrew Raffi decades ago, but they have as much right to complain as anyone else.   And Redford and Bacon's opinions should be welcome, after all, the border is just a line in the map -- we share the same ballpark, more or less.

We can't very well say one country can't have energy while we should have as much as possible. Of course every country is entitled to nuclear energy provided it truly is peaceful and any weapons grade level material is handled according to strict and accepted norms. For our part, we should be leading by example. After all, I thought Alberta was the land of the Four Strong Winds. Heck, even we're trying to “ride the wind” in Ontario too although it's costing us plenty with the "feed in tariff" (especially on windy days when windmill power makes up 10% of the "load".)

UPDATE (7:50 pm EST, 0050 2012-01-19 GMT):   Looks like President Obama has indefinitely shelved Keystone XL.   It'll eventually happen though not for another couple of years at least.   But I still say we have to keep an eye on the ball that is Iran -- just as we should of after 9/11.

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