Fear of Iran in Middle East ‘palpable’

OTTAWA — Fear in the Middle East over Iran’s nuclear ambitions is widespread and real, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Thursday.

Baird told the Commons foreign affairs committee that during his recent visit to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, he was surprised by the level of concern raised by Iran’s neighbours over its nuclear program.

“It’s not just an issue for Israel,” he said. “The fear in the Gulf countries, the fear in North Africa, the Middle East about Iran is palpable.”

He also raised concerns over nuclear proliferation in the region if Iran succeeded in building a nuclear weapon, a concern shared by Christian Leuprecht, an international relations expert with Queen’s University.

“The problem with Iran acquiring the bomb is we might see a nuclear renaissance,” he said, cautioning Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria may look to get their hands on a nuclear weapon in response.

Nuclear weapons would destabilize the oil-rich region, which could threaten security as well as the global economy by creating a spike in oil prices, he argued.

Tehran has always argued its nuclear program is for domestic energy use. But the rogue state’s nuclear ambitions are among the reasons Canada is welcoming new financial and transportation sanctions against Iran imposed by the European Union Thursday.

The move was in response to the storming of the U.K. embassy in Tehran on Tuesday.

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