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CIC National Capital (Ottawa): Canada and Iran: Caught in a Middle Power Trap? (Online event)
February 24, 2022 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm ESTFree
Join the CIC National Capital Branch’s Middle East Study Group at this event featuring Dr. James Devine.
Iran has become an important issue on the Canadian Foreign Policy agenda, but Ottawa’s ability to make its own decisions regarding the Islamic Republic is seriously constrained. There has been a tendency to underestimate the significance of Iran in Canadian foreign policy because Ottawa is not a strategic power in the Middle East or the Persian Gulf and because trade between the two countries has been limited. Canada, however, is home to approximately 1.3 Iranian Canadian citizens, many of whom continue to have family in Iran and travel to the country regularly. With diplomatic relations with Tehran cut, Ottawa is unable to provide support or services for this community while abroad. Tragically, this issue seized the spotlight in January 2020 when Flight PS752 was shot down in Tehran causing the death of 55 Canadian citizens and impacting the lives of Iranian Canadians across the country. Iran is also a pivotal player in an unstable region. Iran’s actions have implications for other states within the region with which Canada has deep ties, such as Israel and Lebanon. The Islamic Republic has also been heavily involved in areas where Canada has had military deployments, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Unfortunately, Ottawa’s ability to set its own course with Iran is constrained by Canada’s position in the international system, and decisions made by the Harper government nearly 10 years ago. As a Middle Power, Canada on its own does not have either the military or economic resources to shape Iranian behaviour. Unfortunately, while Middle Powers have often been able to exert influence through multilateral diplomacy, soft power, and mediation, neither the global system nor the Middle East regional environment appears conducive to traditional Middle Power strategies. The US and Israel have their own agenda with Iran, and even with the help of its European allies, Canada is not likely to sway them.