Iranian born professor says Canada’s closure of Tehran embassy ‘not the best course of action’

·Politics Reporter

The Canadian government made a bold move on Friday, with an announcement stating that it has closed its embassy in Iran and will expel all remaining Iranian diplomats in Canada within five days.

Citing Iran's nuclear program, its assistance to the government of Syria and its hostility towards Iraq, foreign affairs minister John Baird defended his government's action while in Russia for the APEC summit.

"Canada's position on this regime is very well known," Baird told reporters.

"Canada views the government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today."

[ Related: Iran says it treats Israeli military threats as American ]

But is complete suspension of diplomatic relations going too far?

Payam Akhavan, an Iranian-born law professor at McGill University thinks so.

While Akhavan has been a harsh critic of the Iranian regime, he says he would have liked to have seen a more tempered action from the Harper government.

"I was anticipating a downgrade of diplomatic relations but not a termination," he told Yahoo! Canada News.

"The problem with a complete termination...is that it affects a lot of ordinary people. There are many Iranian-Canadians that travel back and forth and have family there. It would make things very difficult for them. Also when you speak about having no diplomatic presence in Tehran — well you have two Canadian-Iranians who are on death-row. You should talk to their families and see what they think about this," he said.

"Although the regime is radicalizing and should be isolated I would have thought the better course of action would have been to maintain a minimal diplomatic relations. And also when at a time when there's talk of war and escalation, I think that keeping a channel of communication is especially important."

Akhavan, who is the co-founder of the Iran Human Rights Documentation Centre, says that we should be concerned about the Iranian regime using Canada as a base for its operations. There have been recent allegations about Iranian diplomats in Ottawa spying and in some cases intimidating Iranian expatriates living in Canada.

There are also what he calls 'regime insiders' who brought over hundreds of millions of dollars of illicit wealth to Canada and invested it in the real estate markets of Toronto and Vancouver.

"If the Canadian government is really serious about putting pressure on the regime it would go after individuals and those assets," he told Yahoo!.

"It would impose travel bans and asset seizures like the United States has done, like the European Union has done."

Canada now joins the U.S. and the U.K. in a growing list of countries that do not have a functioning embassy in Iran. The U.S. hasn't had one since the 1979-81 hostage crisis and Britain's embassy was shuttered last November after it was stormed by protesters.

[ Related: Russia warns against attacking Iran over nuclear fears ]

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