John Baird
John BairdReuters

Canada expanded its sanctions on Iran’s Revolutionary Guards in a bid to ramp up pressure on the Islamic Republic, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Tuesday.

According to a report in The National Post, the government has expanded the sanctions from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s senior leadership to include the entire corps — a parallel military of more than 100,000 and a covert terrorist group behind attacks well beyond Iran’s borders.

A Canadian Jewish organization and a victims of terror advocacy group have in the past campaigned for stronger action against the guard, said the report, and Tuesday’s move further aligns Canada with its allies who have likewise taken a tough stance against the regime.

“Despite intensive efforts by the international community to engage Iran on its nuclear program, the Iranian regime refuses to comply with its international obligations, cooperate fully with the International Atomic Energy Agency, or enter into meaningful negotiations,” The National Post quoted Baird as having said.

“Canada’s clear stand against the Iranian threat further strengthens international pressure on the Iranian regime. The Iranian regime must address, with urgent and concrete action, the international community’s grave concerns over its nuclear activities,” he added.

The Canadian government had previously sanctioned several senior members of the paramilitary but had refrained from listing the entire organization.

The Canadian courts have long treated the Guard as a terrorist outfit, however. Former members of the Guard who have attempted to seek refuge in Canada have routinely been turned down on the grounds the force engaged in terrorism.

Tuesday’s expanded sanctions also targets the Basij paramilitary organization, a volunteer force that polices Islamic law and morals, and involve new measures aimed at economic sectors that indirectly support fund Iran’s nuclear program — from oil and gas, to mining, metals, and shipping.

“The amended regulations further isolate Iran from the global financial system,” Baird said, according to The National Post.

David Koschitzky, the Chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, welcomed Canada’s new sanctions, saying, “We applaud the government’s expansion of economic sanctions targeting the Iranian regime, in particular the listing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) under the Special Economic Measures Act.

“Canada’s Jewish community further appreciates the government’s efforts to focus world attention on the global threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program. We encourage the government to continue to urge the international community to adopt comprehensive measures to help prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability.

“It is crucial that Canada and the international community use every available diplomatic and economic tool to bring the Iranian regime into compliance with international law and end its illegal nuclear program. We believe that adding the IRGC as a listed terrorist entity under the Anti-terrorism Act is an important additional step Canada should take in confronting the Iranian threat.”

In September, Canada announced it would expel Iranian diplomats from its territory and withdraw Canada's representatives from Iran.

Baird explained at the time that Canada is cutting off ties with Iran because “Canada views the Government of Iran as the most significant threat to global peace and security in the world today.”

“The Iranian regime is providing increasing military assistance to the Assad regime; it refuses to comply with UN resolutions pertaining to its nuclear program; it routinely threatens the existence of Israel and engages in racist anti-Semitic rhetoric and incitement to genocide; it is among the world’s worst violators of human rights; and it shelters and materially supports terrorist groups, requiring the Government of Canada to formally list Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism under the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act,” said Baird.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu later spoke with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and thanked him for the decision.

“Your decision constitutes an example of leadership and morality. It is an example of the correct message that the international community needs to send to Iran,” Netanyahu told his Canadian counterpart.