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Thursday, April 17, 2014

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Time to roll up our sleeves

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No one committed to the safety and security of Israel could be faulted for being outraged by the Interim Agreement reached by the P5+1 and Iran. The sense of betrayal – especially by the U.S. – of its sole democratic ally in the Middle East was as palpable as it was self-evident. Few countries, Canada being a singular exception, were prepared to speak truth to power and decry what was, in effect, international capitulation to a rogue state sponsor of terrorism intent on pursuing its nuclear weapons program.

Yet just a few weeks following the news, the international community has moved on, and so too those who railed against the agreement. That is the nature of intense outrage; it burns itself out quickly, leaving only the faintest echo of its original sentiment behind.

Israel, indeed the entire Middle East, requires a more sustained response. Opposition to the Interim Agreement must not be limited to a retrospective protest against western surrender; it has to be prospective about how to undo the damage. As the pioneering American politician, Pat Schroeder, once observed: “you can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time”.

We have six months to reverse the gains Iran stands to achieve through this momentary “pause”. The focus of our collective effort must be to mitigate and reverse the consequences of the deal struck in Geneva.

The greatest challenge is one of perception. Those who expressed support for the agreement must be made to understand that the agreement between the P5+1 and the Iranian regime places the global community at greater, not lesser risk, and it leaves the Middle East – and Europe – in an exponentially more dangerous situation, not one of enhanced stability.

Changing such perceptions is no easy task. It requires two essential ingredients: sustained and consistent attention and clear, simple messaging. And the message could not be more straightforward – Iran does not require a $57 billion uranium enrichment project to acquire nuclear energy. It can model the approach adopted by Canada, Sweden, South Korea, and more than a dozen other advanced economies by purchasing rather than producing the necessary nuclear material.

Canada is uniquely placed to serve as a credible agent of this message and our efforts have to be directed at encouraging the Canadian government to deliver that message in every forum, in every bilateral engagement, and all international venues.

The international community fundamentally understands the threat of a nuclear Iran. If it didn’t, the economic sanctions regime that was so arduously constructed would never have been put into place. Unfortunately, the world blinked and Iran’s game of ‘three card monte’ has been given new life. Throughout this period, Canada has kept a sharp eye and a clear mind. Canada can expose this shell game and challenge our traditional allies south of the border and in Europe to get back on track by promoting this simple, yet effective solution.

Our task is to push forward, not look back, and ensure Canada accepts this mission. To achieve this, we must roll-up our sleeves, not wring our hands.

Shimon Koffler Fogel

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