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Iranian soldiers stand near a S-200 surface-to-air missile during military manoeuvres in Iran on Nov. 26, 2009. (Ali Shayegan/AFP/Getty Images/Ali Shayegan/AFP/Getty Images)
Iranian soldiers stand near a S-200 surface-to-air missile during military manoeuvres in Iran on Nov. 26, 2009. (Ali Shayegan/AFP/Getty Images/Ali Shayegan/AFP/Getty Images)

Canada will back West's push on Iran Add to ...

As early as Monday, Canada will impose tough new sanctions on Iran, which has become a top-tier foreign-policy concern for the Harper government.

The West is getting ready to move against Iran. Canada will be part of the push.

It’s hard, some days, to figure out which part of the Middle East is more alarming. Syria is currently dominating headlines, as the international community grapples with whether and how to prevent the Assad regime from inflicting carnage on its own population.

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But it’s Iran, not Syria, that worries the Harper government the most. The rogue regime in Tehran is firmly in control, and determined to acquire a nuclear weapon, as the International Atomic Energy Agency concluded once and for all earlier this month.

An Iranian bomb would not only threaten the very existence of Israel. As Republican Senator John McCain warned Sunday on Global TV, the rest of the Middle East is every bit as frightened by the prospect.

To protect themselves, “the Saudis will acquire nuclear weapons, maybe even the Egyptians, other countries will acquire nuclear weapons in the most volatile part of the world today,” he told Tom Clark.

Israel is warning that it simply won’t allow Iran to go nuclear. Republicans and Democrats in the United States are competing to see who is more determined to stop the regime from getting the bomb. With a presidential election less than a year away, jaw, jaw, jaw could lead to war, war, war.

But an attack on Iran would be hugely difficult, highly dangerous and likely to fail, because the most important facilities are hidden deep underground.

Air strikes probably wouldn’t be enough. That means special forces would have to go in. Even if they succeeded, the Iranian government would stop at nothing to punish the Israelis, the Americans and their allies, including us.

So what to do?

Not many people noticed that Canada co-sponsored Friday’s resolution by the IAEA’s board of governors demanding that Iran give up on trying to acquire the bomb.

But every Canadian should pay close attention to what the Harper government said during the debate.

“Canada will continue to work with like-minded nations on next steps,” this country’s submission concludes. “The question is not if, but rather the degree to which, we will act.”

That means, according to officials within the government, that if the United States or the European Union impose stronger sanctions on Iran, Canada will at least match those sanctions.

The Obama administration is expected to announce new sanctions as early as Monday. Expect a matching announcement from the Harper government right after.

But as someone once said, it takes time for sanctions to be proved ineffective. And China, which buys Iranian oil, and Russia, which also has close business ties, will block any meaningful action at the United Nations Security Council.

That means that, at some point, Israel may launch a strike against Iran, even if that strike only delays final production of the weapon by a year or so.

If they do, or if the Americans act instead, sources say that Prime Minister Stephen Harper will fully support the action.

It’s the third scenario where things get complicated – in the unlikely event that the United States asks NATO or some other consortium of Western nations to attack or blockade Iran.

On that front, the Conservatives are not willing to commit anything in advance. For one thing, our small navy and fleet of CF-18 fighter jets could offer little in the way of support in such a complex military action.

And the Conservatives have a self-imposed obligation to consult Parliament before sending forces into combat.

Nonetheless, the message is clear enough. To the extent that this country is able, the United States, Israel and Europe can count on Canada to back whatever actions they take against Iran.

The only thing that the Harper government will not support is doing nothing.

Follow on Twitter: @JohnIbbitson

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