In news you may have missed, the government of Saudi Arabia has over-reacted spectacularly to a criticism made by the Canadian foreign minister. What would normally have resulted in calling in the Canadian ambassador to deliver a reprimand has instead resulted in him being immediately expelled. And there was more, as Mehdi Hasan explains.
On Sunday, Saudi Arabia (over)reacted to a single tweet from the Canadian foreign ministry. The tweet called on the Saudis to “immediately release” imprisoned activist Samar Badawi, sister of Raif, as well as “all other peaceful #humanrights activists.” The Saudi foreign ministry lambasted the Canadians for an “unfortunate, reprehensible, and unacceptable” statement, announced the “freezing of all new trade and investment transactions” with Canada, demanding the Canadian ambassador leave the country “within the next 24 hours.”
And Saudi Arabia was just getting started. On Monday, the kingdom escalated the row by suspending scholarships “for about 16,000 Saudi students” studying in Canada, the Toronto Star reported, “and ordered them to attend schools elsewhere.”
This move was probably ordered by the newly-powerful crown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who is supposedly a bosom buddy of Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner. That may explain why the White House was has said they would be neutral in its response to this flap, saying that “Canada and Saudi Arabia are both close allies of the United States.” even though Canada is arguably the closest ally the US has, both geographically and politically, while most of the 9/11 attackers and Osama bin Laden were Saudi Arabians. Aa Hasan says,
Sorry, what? “Both close allies”? Is Canada working with Al Qaeda in Yemen? Cutting deals with, and recruiting fighters from, the group behind the attack on the Twin Towers? And, while we’re on the subject of Al Qaeda, how many of the 19 hijackers on 9/11 were Canadians?
To quote Sen. Bernie Sanders, when he sat down to talk foreign policy with me last September, “Do I consider [the Saudis] an ally? I consider them to be an undemocratic country that has supported terrorism around the world, it has funded terrorism, so I can’t. … No, they are not an ally of the United States.”
While the US is distancing itself from long-term allies like Canada, it is in a tacit alliance with (wait for it) Al Qaeda, through the proxy of Saudi Arabia.
Again and again over the past two years, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia and backed by the United States has claimed it won decisive victories that drove al-Qaida militants from their strongholds across Yemen and shattered their ability to attack the West.
Here’s what the victors did not disclose: many of their conquests came without firing a shot.
That’s because the coalition cut secret deals with al-Qaida fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash, an investigation by The Associated Press has found. Hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself.
These compromises and alliances have allowed al-Qaida militants to survive to fight another day — and risk strengthening the most dangerous branch of the terror network that carried out the 9/11 attacks. Key participants in the pacts said the U.S. was aware of the arrangements and held off on any drone strikes.
No doubt the Saudis, one of the worst regimes in the world but huge purchasers of weapons from the US, Canada and other western nations with which they brutalize their own people as well as those in Yemen and elsewhere, feel that these purchases give them enough leverage with governments to react like this, and to further entangle the US in its crimes.
Anyway, the ball is now in Canada’s court. Will they swallow their pride and backtrack to appease the Saudi regime? Or will they heed their own people who dislike this close alliance?