Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird is comparing Iran's latest threats to Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, expressing Canada's tremendous concern over Iran's nuclear program and deteriorating human rights.
Mr. Baird made the comments from Tel Aviv on Sunday, where he is wrapping up a week-long visit to Israel before joining Prime Minister Stephen Harper for key meetings in China.
The minister was responding to comments Friday from Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who described Israel as a "cancerous tumor that should be cut and will be cut." Iranian officials added Sunday that "any spot used by the enemy for hostile operations against Iran will be subjected to retaliatory aggression by our armed forces."
In an interview with CTV's Question Period, Mr. Baird noted that while the U.S. has confirmed that all options – including military options – are on the table, the focus now should be on ramping up diplomatic sanctions.
Yet he stressed that he came across "palpable" fear in Israel and from around the region over Iran.
"Obviously when the influential leader of Iran said [Friday]that he wanted to remove a cancer from the Middle East and remove Israel from the map, obviously you can understand why the Jewish people, why Israel would take him seriously," he said. "Hitler wrote Mein Kampf more than a decade before he became Chancellor of Germany and they take these issues pretty seriously here. But it's not just an Israeli question. The fear in the Arab world, in the entire region, the Gulf, and the entire Middle East is palpable on this issue. And it's increasingly a significant security threat for the West: for Canada, the United States and our allies in Europe."
Mein Kampf was a book written in 1925 that contained the racist plans of the man who would eventually lead Germany into the Second World War, which included the Holocaust.
Anthony Seaboyer, Director of the Centre for Security, Armed Forces and Society at Kingston's Royal Military College and a past Associate Fellow of the German Council on Foreign Relations, questioned Mr. Baird's decision to invoke Mein Kampf while discussing Iran.
"I don't understand that comparison," he said, adding that such language could hurt Canada's efforts at diplomacy, which Mr. Baird said must now be the priority.
"How are you going to be diplomatic?" asked Dr. Seaboyer. "He says on the one hand, which is totally right, that you have to now maximize all diplomatic efforts and put everything on the table diplomatically - which I totally agree with because that's the only solution. How do you do that with this kind of statement? This shows a very determined position."
Mr. Baird also commented on Saturday's decision by Russia and China to veto a United Nations calling on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to give up power.
"Obviously it's deeply disappointing," said Mr. Baird. "We had the Arab League taking such strong leadership, joining Western countries like Canada and the U.K. and the United States. We had hoped for more."
The minister repeatedly declined to answer questions as to whether he or the Prime Minister will share these concerns – either privately or in public – when they meet with senior Chinese officials this week.
"We're going to have a lot of wide-ranging discussions, good honest dialogue, in the Canadian tradition, which we think is incredibly important," he said. "There are many areas where we had a very good relationship. Obviously we have some profound disagreements and we'll certainly take the opportunity to have a good dialogue with them on those issues."
With a report from Reuters