Senior scholars held an event in Canada, discussing pressing global security concerns with a focus on the alliance by China, Russia, Iran and North Korea (CRINK).
About 300 influential Western figures, including military leaders, lawmakers, diplomats, scholars, and activists wrapped up the 2023 Halifax International Security Forum (HISF) Sunday, after three days of expert panels covering a wide range of topics. The discussions revolved around the challenges posed by CRINK, an acronym derived from the initials of the four nations that have been directly or indirectly involved in numerous military conflicts worldwide.
The summit delved into various themes, with a significant emphasis on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine and the conflict between Israel and Hamas. Notably, the alignment of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea was identified as a substantial threat to the established world order. Leaders of these countries, including Iran’s ruler Ali Khamenei, have repeatedly talked of a new global order not based on Western values.
After opening remarks on the first day of the event, Canada’s Minister of National Defense Bill Blair — who co-hosted the 15th annual forum with the founding President of forum Peter Van Praagh — answered to Iran International’s Mahsa Mortazavi who asked about Canada’s possible plans against the Islamic Republic’s influence and its entrenchment into the Canadian society.
“Canada has already listed Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism which on a level of international law is a very significant and serious determination,” Blair said, when asked why Canada is not following its ally the US in designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization. He noted that “part of Iran’s export of terrorism is through the Quds force,” referring to the IRGC’s extraterritorial wing. “We’ve already listed those as a terrorist entity.”
About agents of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards active in Canada, Blair said, “I want to assure Iranian Canadians we understand how concerning the activities of the IRGC is. We believe that it is necessary to do more, and that work is ongoing.”
In one of the panel discussions, US Senator Jim Risch (R-ID) argued that the Middle East conflicts are fueled and funded by the Islamic Republic. “It is all Iran, whether Hamas, Hezbollah or Houthis, it is all Iran.”
Masih Alinejad, in a panel discussion with some fellow dissident activists, said “It’s a shame that the US government designated the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization, but the US allies are still hesitating to do the simple thing.”
Claiming that Iran’s Khamenei, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, China’s Xi Jinping are “more united than Democratic countries,” Alinejad called for specific measures to counter the global threats Iran poses. “First, criminalize the Revolutionary Guards as a terrorist organization,” she said, adding that the second is ridding Canada from the IRGC agents. She claimed there are over 700 IRGC agents “living luxury lives” in Canada. “Kick them out not because they are the threats for us Iranians, they are threats for democracy; for Canadians as well.”
Participants expressed concerns about the volatile situations in the Middle East, the South China Sea, and the Russia-Ukraine conflict, considering them potential hotbeds that could escalate into broader global conflicts. There was a consensus among democratic nations that unity is crucial to counterbalance the influence of the CRINK alliance.
Islamic Republic hardliners claim that closer economic and political relations with the East and Asian countries, which Khamenei has promulgated with the catchphrase “Looking East”, will help Iran’s development and strengthen it against Western powers, particularly the United States. Since 2018, and Khamenei’s advocation of the policy, “Looking East” has become one of the centerpieces of a ‘revolutionary economy’ which hardliners have been hard at work to theorize and promote.
Almost all the experts were unanimous that the Middle East, particularly the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, and the crisis in South China Sea over Taiwan are the critical flashpoints, from which the conflicts can escalate into bigger wars. Additionally, the Russia-Ukraine conflict was highlighted in several panels, with global leaders stressing the importance of supporting Ukraine in resisting the Russian aggression.
Activists and experts urged the US to send a significant amount of weaponry so that Ukraine can come out a winner from the almost two-year war with Russia. Garry Kasparov, a former World Chess Champion-turned-political activist, told US military men present at the event that the arms needed by Ukraine to win the war “are collecting dust in Pentagon storehouses.”
The Halifax International Security Forum presents an award annually in honor of US Sen. John McCain, who died in 2018, to “individuals from any country who have demonstrated uncommon leadership in the pursuit of human justice.” “On the 75th anniversary of Israel’s creation, and in the aftermath of the October 7 attack that resulted in the greatest loss of life to the Jewish people since the Holocaust, it is fitting to present an award that bears Senator McCain’s name to: The People of Israel,” a statement by the security forum read.
As the HISF concluded, the consensus among democratic nations was clear: a united front is essential to address the destabilizing activities orchestrated by the CRINK alliance and to uphold the principles of the global world order.
Journalist Josh Rogin, who hosted one of the panels, said, “The bottom line is that … we’re entering into a bipolar world… our adversaries are teaming up against us in Ukraine, in Israel, in Europe, and in the Pacific.”
“Iran is arming Russia and Hamas; North Korea is exporting weapons to Russia to use against Ukrainians; Russia and China are teaming up to help Hamas diplomatically; and China is helping Russia and Iran evade sanctions and continue their aggression,” he said, stating that “these conflicts are intertwined and therefore our response needs to be intertwined.”
As Kasparov put it, the leaders of CRINK exactly say what they are going to do, and they are delivering on their promises. He explained that Putin had talked of annexation of lands he deemed as part of Russia, or China’s Xi has been vocal about taking over Taiwan, and Iran’s Khamenei has been trumpeting his prophecy of Israel’s annihilation. He said the world should take their threats at face value.
“At times like this, conferences like this one matter. Threats to international stability are on the rise – and in the face of those threats, we’ve got to work together. We must learn from one another and share experiences. We must step up to address these challenges, and to preserve peace and prosperity for our peoples. Together, I’m confident that we can build a safer world. We can ensure that our militaries are ready to face the threats of tomorrow. And ultimately, we can protect and strengthen the rules-based international order that keeps us all safe.”
Bill Blair, Canada’s Minister of National Defense