Analysis: Canada may have cut ties with Iran to avoid retaliation
By Marcus George and Randall Palmer
DUBAI/OTTAWA, Sept 10 - Canada's surprise decision to sever relations with Iran may well have been triggered by Ottawa's fear of retaliation for stepping up its denunciations of Tehran and a parallel move to list Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.
The break in relations, announced on Friday, has led to speculation that it was a prelude to Israeli or U.S. military action against Iran's nuclear facilities. Canada has categorically denied having any information about planned attacks.
"Canada wants to be able to continue to speak up on the Iranian regime's behavior, and we didn't want our guys in there as hostage," said Andrew MacDougall, chief spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper, explaining the decision to close the Tehran embassy and order Iranian diplomats out of Canada.
The Canadian announcement offered a long list of reasons for cutting ties: Iran's nuclear program, hostility toward Israel, Tehran's military assistance to Syria, and what Ottawa said was Iran's support for terrorist groups.
But none of those reasons had surfaced overnight, leaving people asking, why now?
Indeed, the decision appeared to catch Canada's Western allies off-guard.
"It was news to us," one Western diplomat based in Tehran told Reuters by telephone hours after the announcement. "There seemed to be nothing specific that made them pull the plug."
Still, the announcement came on the same day that Canada designated Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. A new Canadian law required the government to come up with a list of state terrorism sponsors by September 13, and many feared such a declaration could have sparked reprisals in Tehran if Canadian diplomats had stayed. Continued...