A Globe and Mail article, from late last week, says that:
“Federal officials have told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that Canada’s strategic interest would be well served by strengthening economic ties with oil-rich Saudi Arabia because of its powerful position in the Persian Gulf. [and]
Canada’s interests in the tumultuous region are spelled out in the briefings prepared for Trudeau, who faces calls to cancel the lucrative sale of light armoured vehicles by an Ontario company.
“Further deepening of strategic relations with the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries would serve Canadian commercial and possibly security interests,” the memo states, pointing to Saudi Arabia as the leading player in the six-country bloc that includes the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.”
Now, I do not dispute, even for a a second, that Canada has some, relatively useful, commercial interests with the GCC and I support trade with them, including selling them arms. What I dispute is that we, Canada, have any vital interests with the GCC.
I am not surprised that that this recommendation has come to our new, inexperienced prime minister from the foreign ministry ~ now ever so pretentiously titled Global Affairs Canada ~ the diplomats in the Pearson Building do have interests: they believe, with good reason, that it was Prime Minister Harper’s foreign policy, especially his unstinting, some would say uncritical and one-sided support for Israel, that “cost” Canada a seat on the UN Security Council when it was, in their minds, clearly, “our turn.” Well, it wasn’t “our turn,” those days, when we were “entitled,” are looooong gone; and it wasn’t any specific bit of the Conservative government’s foreign policy that “cost” us anything. It was a realignment of constantly shifting interests in what is, after all, a ‘small potatoes’ issue. Arguing over a seat on the UNSC reminds me ofProf Charles Frankel’s (Columbia University) famous quip (1969) about academic disputes:
“It used to be said of politics on the university campus that it was the worst of all kinds of politics because the stakes were so small.”
That was, and remains, the nature of the dispute between Prime Minister Harper’s government and the striped pants set in the Pearson Building: Stephen Harper built a policy on principle, the diplomats wanted the petty privileges that they think come with a seat in the UNSC.
In any event, the correct allies in that region are Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon and almost all of our efforts should be devoted to helping and strengthening them, even at the expense of the GCC states. Those four are, pretty much, the only ones actually looking for peace in the region because only those four are advancing interests other than raw power or religion.
Prime Minister Trudeau is being poorly advised. I hope someone on his team is smart enough to understand that the “interests” of Canada’s foreign service are, generally, petty, self serving codswallop from the usual suspects.