Canada’s last Iran envoy against listing IRGC as terrorist group
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Former Canadian ambassador to Iran Dennis Horak discouraged a potential Canadian government move to list Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity, CBC News reported. Horak responded to demands by Canadian Jewish and Iranian organizations to list the IRGC as a terrorist group due to them shooting down a Ukrainian commercial jetliner in Iran.
The incident resulted in the deaths of 176 passengers, including 57 Canadians. In addition, according to The Canadian Press news agency, at least 86 victims had ties to Canada, with many of them being students and professors returning from visiting relatives during the December academic break.
According to David Matas, senior lawyer for B’nai Brith Canada, listing the IRGC as a terrorist organization would allow Canadians to sue the Iranian government through the use of the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, CBC News reported.
Canada has already designated the IRGC’s Quds Force as a terrorist entity. However, the Quds Force primarily operates outside of Iran’s borders, and is responsible for many of their operations throughout the region.
The missile that took down the Ukrainian plane was from the IRGC, but not the Quds Force.
“If a terrorist act is committed by the IRGC, but not the Quds Force, a suit is not possible,” Matas said.
These views were also shared by Avideh Motmaen-Far, president of the Council of Iranian Canadians.
“This terrorist action, intentionally or not, executed by the IRGC, (emphasized and confirmed) once more the terrorist nature of this organization that has no respect for civilian lives,” she said.
In June 2018, MPs in Canada’s House of Commons voted to list the entire IRGC as a terrorist organization, but so far, the government has yet to do follow through with the move.
On Monday, B’nai Brith Canada sent an open letter to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, calling on him to list the IRGC asa terrorist organization.
The IRGC “serves as a constant threat to the safety and security of civilians in the region, to Israel, and to Canada and Canadian interests,” the letter said.
It concluded with an open petition to designate the IRGC as a terrorist organization within the next 30 days.
However, Horak disagreed with the move.
“Introducing additional [terrorist] listings at this point would be counterproductive,” the former ambassador told The Canadian Press Monday.
“The Iranians, for example, could believe the accident investigation team is looking to compile evidence for future legal cases against them.”
Horak, who was considered the country’s top Middle East analyst and was ambassador to Iran when Canada severed ties with Tehran in 2012, the Canadian government should focus on supporting Canadian families and retrieving the remains of the victims.
Making Tehran pay reparations should come later.
“There will be time to address the need for accountability once these initial stages are done,” he explained.
“That effort should be centered in the next stage on securing compensation directly from Iran consistent with Islamic law and tradition. That will take negotiations but is likely the best way to secure some measure of compensation for families.”
In addition to being counterproductive, however, Horak also believes that it would be ultimately pointless, as it is unclear how Canadians would ever be able to collect a settlement after suing the Iranian government.
The Canadian government can seize Iranian assets in the country, but cannot seize any diplomatic property. According to the CBC News report, any assets remaining are, at best, unsubstantial.
“As I understand it, there are no more assets to seize at this moment,” Horak explained.
But according to Matas, this isn’t just about money.
“To a certain extent what we’re talking about here is not money, but principle,” he explained.
“And the principle is a terrorist, is a terrorist, is a terrorist.”
The downing of the Ukrainian passenger jetliner has resulted in widespread condemnation towards the Islamic Republic both domestically and internationally. Protests have erupted across Iran, with Iranians shouting anti-regime slogans.