I like the independence of Canadian policy in the Middle East on some big issues. Exhibit A has to be the decision to refuse to join the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Canadian independence of action is once again on display over the question of Syria. When President Obama gave the Syrian opposition the ringing endorsement that it was now 'representative enough' of the Syrian people to be considered their legitimate representative, Australia followed suit quicker than you can say 'road to Damascus'.

Canada, on the other hand, took the shockingly unorthodox position that a largely Sunni rebellion which holds ground in the north and east of the country but none of the main population centres and whose leader doesn't agree with Washington's decision to blackban militant Islamist fighters could not be considered the sole, legitimate voice and government-in-waiting of the Syrian people. Bizarre, I know.

Ottawa also announced additional humanitarian assistance and a willingness to work with the opposition even though Canada wouldn't yet officially recognise it. The Canadians, unlike Australia, don't consider such recognition to be 'purely symbolic'. That's because it isn't.

Photo by Flickr user Paul Keller.