NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair says he is opposed to war with Iran. In a recent interview in a Georgia Straight boardroom, the newly minted Opposition leader stated that his top international-relations priority is to “work hard for peace”.
“I don’t think anyone who has looked at this situation objectively is in favour of a preemptive strike on Iran,” Mulcair said. “Cooler heads are prevailing in London, Paris, and Washington, so far. I hope that continues.”
His comments about Iran were far less bellicose than remarks made earlier this year by Prime Minister Stephen Harper. In February, Harper told the National Post that he believes the Iranian government is prepared to use nuclear weapons if it’s able to produce them. Harper also called Iran a “fanatical and dangerous regime” and “a grave threat to peace and security”.
Mulcair, however, characterized President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government as weak, but suggested an attack might give it sustenance.
“Ahmadinejad’s regime is not going to be there forever,” the NDP leader said. “It’s a very shaky regime, but the best way to make people coalesce and support a regime is to attack it.”
Mulcair added that he has never heard anybody in Canada call for a preemptive strike on Iran. “If there were any evidence that there was a real threat to world peace by the development of ballistic missiles that could have been combined with a weapon that was actually there, that would be one thing,” he said. “But what we’re seeing is that the sanctions are starting to work. They are producing the result, and that would be by far the preferred method to continue.”
During the NDP leadership campaign, Mulcair was often portrayed as the most pro-Israel candidate in the race. That was because, in 2008, the left-wing magazine Canadian Dimension published a translated quote from Mulcair, in which he said, “I am an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances.” (“Je suis un ardent supporter de toutes les instances et de toutes les circonstances d’Israël.”)
In his interview with the Straight, Mulcair emphasized that he is also an “ardent supporter of the creation of a Palestinian state”.
“That has always been the NDP’s position,” he said. “We should create a state for Palestinians and we should have a state for Israelis: a classic two-state solution.”
He added that this should be achieved “within a framework of international law and UN resolutions”.
“So on the international-law side, we know that the current [Israeli government] settlement policies, for example, go against the fourth Geneva Convention,” Mulcair stated. “So that’s something very clear in the NDP position, which has always been my position.”
Given his opposition to settlements in the occupied territories, the Straight suggested that Mulcair wasn’t an ardent supporter of Israel in all situations and in all circumstances.
“There is no contradiction between the two,” the NDP leader replied. “You can be an ardent supporter of a country and say that something that they’re doing in that case has to be changed. But it doesn’t mean you’re not a supporter of the country. You have to be very careful with those words. What I’m saying is I’m not going to use my opposition to something that they’re doing as an excuse to call for an end to the state of Israel, which is what some of the adversaries of Israel do.”
Mulcair pointed out that the Israeli embassy in Egypt operates out of a hotel because it wasn’t secure in its former location. “We’re in a very uncertain time with regard to a lot of the countries in the Middle East,” he noted. “That’s why it’s important to continue to support the democracies that are there…despite the hope generated by the Arab Spring, we’re seeing that a lot of those countries are backsliding.”
Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.