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Iran: The most important 
non-election issue

[PoliticsWatch Updated 4:00 p.m. December 15, 2005]

OTTAWA  — Iran entered Canada's election campaign on Wednesday after the leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said the Holocaust was a myth. 

"They have invented a myth that Jews were massacred and place this above God, religions and the prophets," he said in a nationally televised speech. 

"If somebody in their country questions God, nobody says anything, but if somebody criticizes the myth of the massacre of Jew, the Zionist loudspeakers and the governments in the pay of Zionism will start to scream," he said. 

Ahmadinejad then made this bizarre proposal, specifically mentioning Canada. 

"Our proposal is this: give a piece of your land in Europe, the United States, Canada or Alaska so they (the Jews) can create their own state."

These comments are even more troubling in the context that Iran is suspected of trying to ramp its nuclear program. 

Prime Minister Paul Martin and Conservative Leader Stephen Harper issued statements Wednesday afternoon condemning Ahmadinejad's remarks. 

Martin called the comments "irresponsible" and "contrary to Canadian values."

And although he has not released a statement, NDP Leader Jack Layton condemned the comments after a reporter asked him about it in Vancouver. 

But the truth is all the parties and the Canadian media are a little late on this. 

Ahmadinejad made similar comments about the Holocaust on December 8, when he said the Holocaust was "a claim" he did not accept.

"Some European countries insist on saying that Hitler killed millions of innocent Jews in furnaces and they insist on it to the extent that if anyone proves something contrary to that they condemn that person and throw them in jail," the IRNA quoted Ahmadinejad as saying.

"Although we don't accept this claim, if we suppose it is true, our question for the Europeans is: is the killing of innocent Jewish people by Hitler the reason for their support to the occupiers of Jerusalem?"

None of the party leaders responded to those comments last week and a check of the Foreign Affairs web site shows no news release condemning those comments. 

So is saying the Holocaust is a "myth" somehow worse than calling it a "claim" you do not believe?

Interestingly, Layton was the only one asked about Ahmadinejad's comment by a reporter on Wednesday. 

The national media following the prime minister at a sawmill in B.C. didn't bother asking about it. Although there was a question about a flyer issued by Conservative MP Rob Anders, who is not trying to acquire nuclear weapons. 

The prime minister, himself, also decided to use his time with the media to launch an attack on another foreign country - the U.S. and the Bush administration, reportedly Canada's greatest ally -- not the Holocaust-denying Iranian leader. 

If not during the election campaign, at some point in the very near future what to do about Iran is going to become an issue. 

Canada and the Liberal government based its position on the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq on a new doctrine that somehow UN Security Council approval is needed for military action. 

The five countries on the Security Council are the U.S., Britain, France, Russia and China. 

The Security Council is important right now because Iran suspended a uranium enrichment program in 2003 to avoid the matter being referred to the Security Council for violating the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. 

Enriched uranium can be used for nuclear reactors but it can also provide the fissile material needed for nuclear weapons. 

Since then, Iran has complained about the suspension of its enrichment program. In August, Iran restarted a uranium conversion facility, a step to enrichment.

The International Atomic Energy Agency's board of governors voted 22-1 to declare Iran to be in non-compliance with the non-proliferation treaty. But a number of countries abstained, including security council members China and Russia. 

Despite this, the IAEA has failed to refer the issue to the Security Council and has decided to wait for Iran's response to a proposal by Russia to allow Iran to enrich uranium in Russia facilities. 

Russia and China have business and military links with Iran. Russian last month agreed to a $1 billion arms sale to Iran and will send an air defence missile system and upgraded fighter jets in the next two years. Iran and China have over $10 billion in trade. 

The current situation is somewhat similar to Iraq. 

Essentially, two security council members seem reluctant to take measures against what is looking more and more like a rogue leader. 

The U.S. and Israel are both weighing their options given the recent rhetoric coming out of Tehran.

In 1981, Israel launched a surprise attack on the Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq and there are rumours that an attack against Iran could be coming soon. 

The Sunday Times reported on the weekend Israeli forces have been ordered to prepare for an attack on nuclear facilities in Iran. That attack could come as soon as March, according to the story. Israel has called the report incorrect but will not rule out a possible attack in the future. 

"One cannot say a priori that any option for the future is being ruled out," said Amos Gilad, chief of strategic planning in Israel's defence ministry. "But presented with the specific planning, as laid out so artfully in this article…is not correct." 

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said in an interview with a national syndicated radio program in the U.S. Wednesday "We're going to have to act on that sooner or later."

"If Iran keeps behaving in this way we're not going to have any choice" but to appeal to the security council.

Beer and popcorn, Rob Anders and speeches given eight years ago are just fine and dandy questions to pose during the campaign. 

But if Canada has a legitimate national press corps and not a bunch of poll watching, PM-rant and press-release transcribing, navel gazers on a plane then at some point -- real soon -- reporters are going to have to ask all the party leaders -- especially the current prime minister -- an important question.

"Would you support military action against Iran, even if it does not have the unanimous approval of the UN Security Council?"

It's perhaps the most important question not being asked in this election to date. 

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