To Ivison, the prime minister’s reaction did not “instil confidence that the families of the  Canadians who perished will see any kind of justice.”
“If Canadians were looking for their prime minister to express their fury and the anguish,” he added, “they were sorely disappointed.”
Scoffield described Trudeau’s response as “subdued.” She called his preference for quiet diplomacy a failure, and asked: “Would indignation work any better? Maybe not — but at least we’d be telling Trump that we see his recklessness for what it is. And this week, it would certainly have reflected the mood of an angry and grieving nation. Sometimes, that’s a leader’s job.”
Neither thought there was any chance that the Iranians would admit liability and open up the country to an international investigation.
No doubt both are now eating humble pie, and it is not my intent to humiliate them further. (Having eaten my share of humble pie in the past, I empathize with their position.)
Nonetheless, it is important to note that the Trudeau government’s diplomatic approach to dealing with the Iranian government has already achieved far more than any expressions of fury and indignation ever could.
Diplomacy is not, as these journalists (and countless politicians and activists from across the political spectrum) are inclined to suggest, a sign of weakness. In this case in particular, it was almost certainly more difficult for Trudeau not to lash out in anger than it was to remain calm and offer Teheran every opportunity to save face.
Having closed our embassy in Iran, Ottawa needed to be invited into the country to investigate and repatriate the remains of those who lost their lives. So long as there remained the slightest chance that Tehran would open its doors, it made no rational sense to be provocative. (And even now that Canadians are inside the country, it’s still worth treading cautiously, seeing as Iran does not recognize dual citizenship. To the regime, the majority of Canadians who perished are Iranian citizens.)
The last 20 years of Canadian foreign policy, under Liberals and Conservatives, have too often seen our leaders privilege feeling good about ourselves over achieving results. Regrettably, columns like Ivison’s and Scoffield’s encourage such shallowness.
Diplomacy is hard, and it’s ugly. It often fails. And even when it works, the results aren’t always ideal. Still, when it comes to a country like Canada – lacking in the population size and military strength necessary to impose its interests – diplomacy is what we have. Kudos to the government for continuing to exhibit patience and firmness in the face of such heart-breaking devastation.
For commentary on this issue, I will always want to know what Thomas Juneau has to say. The indefatigable Bessma Momani is also consistently helpful. On Iran, please look up my colleague, Pierre Pahlavi. The Canadian who encapsulated the best of quiet diplomacy was the former assistant deputy minister of external affairs and president of the old Canadian Institute of International Affairs (now the Canadian International Council), John Holmes. I wrote a book about him a while back.
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