No Security Threat Behind 2012 Canada Embassy Closure

No Security Threat Behind 2012 Canada Embassy Closure
No Security Threat Behind 2012 Canada Embassy Closure

A newly released report into security at Canada’s former embassy in Iran suggests that its officials were not faced with any serious threat as the Canadian government had claimed at the time.

According to the report, completed less than nine months before the Conservative government shut down the embassy in Tehran and ordered Iranian diplomats out of Canada, the biggest threat at the time was from a possible major earthquake.

The assessment was ordered after a November 2011 attack on the British embassy compound, which raised concerns about the safety of western officials and prompted Britain to close its mission for nearly two years, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported.

The move came after angry students stormed the British embassy in Tehran in protest at Britain’s policy on Iran. Parliament had earlier voted in favor of downgrading diplomatic relations with Britain. Nearly two years later in October 2013, and following the election of President Hassan Rouhani, the two countries agreed to appoint non-resident chargés d’affaires as a first step toward reopening their respective embassies.   

Canada’s Foreign Minister John Baird cited concerns for the safety of the Canadian diplomats in Tehran when he announced the closure in a news release in 2012, and later said, “He’d been considering it for months.”

The report dated January 24, 2012 was provided to CBC News under federal access-to-information laws. It was completed after meetings with top-level Iranian officials and consultations with experts and other embassies and written by an official posted in Tehran during a visit by an official from the security and intelligence bureau.

Dan Livermore, who was director general of security and intelligence at the Department of Foreign Affairs from 2002 to 2007, told in an interview with CBC News, “There was no tangible threat,” adding, “The Iranians, for the terrible relations we had with them, they never closed their door to us.”