Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It isn't just about airlines

Jeff from A BCer in Toronto writes in the NaPo:
And when they stopped a plane with the defence minister and chief of defence staff from entering their airspace en route to Afghanistan, I would call them up and remind them, once again, where they can stick it. Such linkage is bush league thuggery, not diplomacy, and we’re right not to play ball on this.
I take a different view. It doesn't matter how over the top the UAE's response was with denying airspace to our officials and kicking out our base. Diplomacy and international relations on contentious issues is in large part about weighing the cost and benefits of getting your way. We can stonk and rave about the metrics of air-travel and the merits or motivations of the Emirates' request. Great. But at the end of the day we still had, at the Emirates' privilege, a vital military installation on their soil. And they had no comparable facility on ours. They held a trump card and our government failed to realise they could and would use it. 
Their negotiators must have shaken their heads when Harper's minions rucked up to the table.

Moreover, that they used that card also shows that our little war in Afghanistan isn't a particularly critical interest for the UAE. Indeed, having contingents of Western military forces on their soil might even be looked upon as a security problem because their presence winds-up the more excitable members of the local and regional citizenry. For all we know, this little dispute might have been a good enough reason for them to kick us out.
Whatever the case, playing diplomatic hardball with a state holding that much leverage was just plain stupid. Framed another way, the Conservatives essentially gambled the Canadian Forces in a dispute over something as trivial as airline landing privileges and lost. Badly.  

Another case of the Conservative magical reality impacting actual reality at velocity...

Indeed, pogge in commments reminds of a link from Holly Stick where UAE sources draw a direct connection between our military privileges and their request for landing rights.
The UAE official said an agreement granting the Canadian side landing rights had initially expired in June and in the spirit of goodwill it was extended on request from the Canadian government for three more months.
“Out of goodwill, the UAE granted the extension of three months, but the Canadian side did not show any similar act of goodwill towards the UAE,” the official said.
The official added: “But when it comes to free trade and economic liberalisation, Canada today is behaving like the defunct states of the Iron Curtain.”
The official added the Canadian minister’s aircraft was well aware and long in advance that the MOU on landing rights had expired.
“This information was in their possession when the minister’s craft was on the ground in Afghanistan and an alternative landing facility was agreed upon by the Canadian side with another country well before the plane took off,” the official said.
On Sunday, Mohammed Abdullah Al Ghafli, the UAE’s ambassador in Canada, said the failed negotiations concerning commercial landing rights in Canada would “undoubtedly affect” bilateral relations between the two countries.
“It is unfortunate that this process has been so protracted and frustrating,” said Al Ghafli.
Ouch. I think they understand our Harper-kind all too well.


Jim Parrett said...

Thank you posting this. It needed to be said. I think the timing of the article is also suspect.

pogge said...

The UAE tells a different story. In fact I read it in a news report linked from a comment on this blog. According to a UAE official, Canadians knew before MacKay's plane left the ground in Afghanistan that it would be denied landing privileges in the UAE and alternative arrangements had already been made. That same UAE official also pointed out that the original MOU regarding Camp Mirage had actually expired in June and been extended unconditionally for three months so that negotiations on a longer extension could proceed. That would mean that none of this should have come as a surprise to our side.

So who should we believe? It's not like MacKay has never lied to us before.

Boris said...

This link:

Canada as the couch surfer who says 'whatever' when asked to pay rent.

Holly Stick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Holly Stick said...

More interesting stuff in the Globe & Mail today, about Harper and Baird deciding to be tough guys and cutting out Mackay and other ministers who wanted to make concessions to the UAE:

Jang and later Chase and later Taber have been following the story in the G&M - Feb 24:

Oct 8:

Oct 12:

I'm guessing the Conservatives will bring Harper down before the Opposition does.

Alison said...

Canada as the couch surfer who says 'whatever' when asked to pay rent

Well, exactly. As I understand it, UAE has been waiting nine years for solid compensation in the form of increased landing rights in Canada, so a blustery recommendation to "call them up and remind them, once again, where they can stick it" is way off-base.

The Mound of Sound said...

I would have thought Jeff might have been a tad more circumspect given his recent Israeli junket to the M.I.
Forty years ago I knew enough to turn down a free junket to Israel and, if I had gone for it, I'd at least try to salvage enough integrity not to castigate anyone else. Surely Jedras ought to be expected to preface his opinion comments with the disclaimer of his personal participation in this.

Dana said...

I lost quite a bit of respect for Jeff over that piece.

No reference to the 3 month grace period the UAE had extended; no mention of the three month old talks with Pakistan about landing rights; no mention of the lack of quid pro quo at all, of any sort, let alone the Emirates landing rights; nothing but neo-Con worthy knee jerk yaya.

Now its possible that he knew none of those factors at the time of writing. As far as I'm concerned that doesn't excuse him. He should know by now that the first reports are going to be slanted and incomplete; he should know to hold off till more is known.

Allying himself with the NaPo, Air Canada, Harper and Baird do nothing to increase his prestige or credibility as far as I'm concerned.

I won't stop reading him yet - but the leash is short.

Holly Stick said...

They may still be negotiating:

Dana said...

Holly, that's government spin.