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G8 Foreign ministers get acquainted in Quebec; talk Afghanistan, Iran

G8 Foreign ministers get acquainted in Quebec; talk Afghanistan, Iran

A number of key things came out of this week’s G8 foreign ministers meetings.

1. One item of importance to Canadians is that the Conservative government plans to continue with its Afghanistan withdrawal plans and be out of the country by 2011. I am happy to hear this and that Canada is holding firm against U.S. pressure to stay, though I don’t think we should have been there to begin with.

However, due to the withdrawal, the Canadian government is reasoning that there is no need for, and will not be, any more debate around Afghanistan. What? Imagine if the government decides to change its withdrawal plans due to ‘new’ circumstances? At that point, won’t we be thinking that there should have been debate during that year and a half? And

In any case, Parliament needs to be debating the things that happen over the next 21 months, a lot of time for many developments to transpire. Maybe they figure it isn’t much time since the war has been going on since 2002, but that leaves plenty of time for lives lost and people maimed over the next year and nine months.

Further, does this end of debate also include the detainee debate? Finally, what will happen after 2011? What is Canada’s role then?

Ignatieff (the Canadian opposition leader) is right, the Conservatives want to do foreign policy through the media, with no Parliamentary oversight and debate.

2. There is a plan for an Afghanistan-Pakistan border trade initiative “to help improve trade between the two countries and strengthen border infrastructure.” I don’t fully understand the details, though it does seem like a plan build an economic solution to help people economically to dissuade them from joining the Taliban. Not sure how all that will work, and it doesn’t seem like they know either. Window dressing?

3. And Iran. The G8 has been kind enough to open dialogue with Iran over their nuclear program, though they call for strong measures against them as well. Setting aside the unspeakable fact that four G8 countries are nuclear weapons states themselves, there is little evidence that Iran has nuclear capabilities, or will in the future. The White House even announced this back in February:

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the US “do not believe they have the capability” to enrich the uranium to the 20 percent level, as President Ahmadinejad claimed earlier today.

Iran has been enriching uranium at 3.5 percent, the level needed for its power generation program. On Tuesday they announced that they were beginning to enrich uranium at 20 percent, the level needed for their medical reactor. The IAEA indicated yesterday that Iran has converted a small percentage of its enrichment program to the 20 percent level.

Since the announcement, US officials have insisted that they needed to make haste with new sanctions against Iran, claiming that the 20 percent enrichment (though itself legal and innocuous) could have been a step toward the capability to enrich uranium above 90 percent, or weapons grade.

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