In what has become a very public and highly covered social media spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia, the two countries have jousted over twitter exchanges that implicate human rights violations. The social media feud was ignited when the Canadian foreign affairs department called out Saudi Arabia’s regime for imprisoning human rights activists in a pointed tweet from Canada’s Foreign Minister.
“Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.” ~Chyrstia Freeland, Canadian Foreign Minister.
The Canadian foreign affairs department bolstered this stance with a tweet of its own, calling for the immediate release of the women and human rights activists.
Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in #SaudiArabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists. ~@CanadaFP, (Canada Foreign Policy)
Saudi Arabia responded with scathing criticism of Canada, including a caustic tweet from a pro-Saudi Government Organization which featured a doctored image of an Air Canada plane aimed at Toronto’s skyline. This veiled thread was eerily reminiscent to the 9/11 attacks on the US, in which 2,996 people were killed after 19 hijackers flew airliners into the World Trade Center’s twin towers and the Pentagon. Fifteen of the hijackers were Saudi nationals.
Riyadh responded to a call from Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland to release civil society activists with an abrupt severing of diplomatic and trade ties, sending home Canadian ambassadors and boycotting Canadian products including grain and maple syrup. Ironically, Saudi Arabia launched a laughable and impotent critique of Canada’s human rights record as the monarchy was publicly crucifying a man in Mecca in a scene reminiscent of the dark ages.
A Deeper Look Into Saudi-Canadian Relations
Lost in the media buzz of this public Twitter spat is the fact that Canada has continually and consistently supported the Saudi Autocracy as a major Arms Sales trading partner. Indeed – Canada has funded, supported and aided the worst of Saudi Arabia’s abuses, rendering it complicit in its war crimes and international humans rights violations in Yemen and across the region.
On August 9th, the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen bombed a school bus killing dozens of civilians including 29 children. Despite this atrocity, there hasn’t been a word of criticism from Canadian officials.
Business As Usual
Trudeau has been regarded as a stalwart of liberal internationalism – an antithesis to the Trump, Le Pen, Orban nationalism. However, as it pertains to challenging the military-industrial complex world order, Trudeau has preserved the status quo. Canada appropriately criticized the human rights violations in Saudi Arabian society, but has remained muted on the war crimes and international human rights violations that Saudi Arabia has committed in Yemen.
In 2014, the Conservative Canadian government made a deal to sell $15 billion worth of military vehicles to Saudi Arabia. The deal was criticized as Saudi Arabia had previously used similar vehicles to attack protesters and activists both in Bahrain and in the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia. Despite this, there was no shift in policy when the Liberals came into office, as Trudeau’s government decided to preserve the Saudi arms deal that was brokered from the previous government.
As of today, Saudi forces and its proxies have killed more than 10,000 people in Yemen, two-thirds of whom are civilians. According to the BBC, “The fighting and a partial blockade by the coalition has also left 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid, created the world’s largest food security emergency, and led to a cholera outbreak that is thought to have affected a million people.”
Hélène Laverdière of the New Democratic party pointed to reports of the Saudi kingdom’s attacks on its own civilians as well as the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen, where more than 3 million people have been displaced.
“So I am asking the prime minister, what does he think about Canada potentially being complicit in international human rights violations?” Laverdière asked. “How can we say Canada’s foreign policy is progressive and feminist when we continue to sell arms to Saudi Arabia?”
Trump and the NeoCon Artists
As unsavory as Canada’s relationship with Saudi Arabia is, it pales in comparison to the corruption and deceit inherent in the Saudi-U.S. long-standing alliance. Under the Trump regime, Riyadh and Washington are closer than ever and have been enjoying an exceptionally close relationship – tense during the administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama – who distanced his administration from both Saudi Arabia and Israel while seeking to thaw relations with Iran. Both Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and President Trump (along with Israel) have now teamed up to bully a common rival: Iran.
Image: President Trump, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz, and Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in 2017 in Riyadh | AP
In 2016, candidate Trump promised to build infrastructure and jobs at home – and to stay out of foreign entanglements. In fact, Trump repeatedly criticized Obama for intervening in Libya and Syria – and campaigned on getting the U.S. out of endless wars. That was all bluster and empty rhetoric, of course, as President Trump has been a NeoCon’s dream come true, bent to set the world on fire in a rapid devolution cycle via a foreign policy that is furthering the criminal objectives of the George W. Bush Administration. John Bolton – the NeoCon of NeoCons – was a prominent architect of the illegal Iraq war invasion who to this day praises the decision to invade Iraq which led to the murder of millions of innocent civilians. Instead of standing trial for war crimes, Bolton has been rewarded with legitimacy as Trump appointed him to be his National Security Adviser. Since being appointed, Bolton has actively called for regime change in Iran and is shamelessly lobbying for all-out war.
Soon after assuming the presidency, Trump cowardly walked away from the landmark Iran Nuclear Deal, which was an immense, multinational diplomatic achievement that took several years to manifest. Simultaneously, Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud signed a gargantuan Arms deal from the United States totaling US$110 billion.
New Hat Alert: “Make Oligarchy Great Again.”
Trump’s supporters often characterize him as being an outsider and somebody who challenges the Establishment Order in favor of the common interest. Nothing could be further from the truth – particularly as it pertains to foreign policy. Just like Hillary Clinton, Trump’s business ties with Saudi Arabia are well-documented. Trump – a self purported “billionaire” – reported a 13 percent increase in hotel business revenue for the first three months of 2018 thanks to a visit from the Saudi Arabian crown prince. During his first year in office, dozens of foreign governments spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at Trump-owned properties, including a Saudi Arabian public relations company that spent $270,000 at his D.C. hotel. The ethics watchdog group Public Citizen said the Saudis were trying to “seduce Trump” by staying there.
This is just one example of the ethical and financial improprieties that this president has brought to Washington. Trump is profiting personally from foreign dignitaries seeking favoritism by patronizing his many businesses – and favors are given in return. American foreign policy favoritism is effectively being used to kill Yemeni civilians and children, thanks to the Trump-Saudi arms deal which has delivered the world’s deadliest bombs (courtesy of Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics) to the Saudi kingdom for whatever use they see fit, even if it violates all standards of international human rights protections.
Trump’s foreign policy is neither nuanced nor knowledgeable, and has been expertly exploited by special interest groups seeking to finalize the mission set forth by the Project for a New American Century NeoCons: to take out seven countries in the Middle East, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran. In just months after President Trump was elected, he had already been usurped by a veiled, shadow government that sees an opportunity to exploit Trump’s lack of principled vision for their own destructive purposes, with Trump as a willing accomplice.
You simply cannot be fighting for “liberal democracy”, “human rights” and “peace” when you are funding (directly and indirectly via Saudi arms deals) the expansion of organizations like the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda (who never even existed until the West intervened in the Mideast) and supporting the occupation of the Palestinian people by an extremist Netanyahu apartheid regime in Israel. Yet, all we hear about are the “evils of Iran” – despite the fact that it was not Iran – but Saudi Arabia – which had its hands in 9/11 and continues to export extremist ideology and propaganda through its madrasas and support of arms and money to organizations like ISIS & Al-Nusra. It is Saudi Arabia – not Iran – which is the world’s #1 exporter of terrorism.
The New Old World Order
The New York-based group Human Rights Watch warned that the worsening spat between Ottawa and Riyadh “should alarm Saudi Arabia’s allies and all rights respecting countries.” However, the official response from the European Union and the U.S. has been muted, indicative of the deep financial ties and corrupted, oligarchical influence that permeates the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
While Canada’s foreign minister may criticize Saudi Arabia’s treatment of women’s rights activists — and the U.S. may publicly call for a “war on terrorism” – both nations are engaging in business as usual with the Saudi kingdom, which has enabled the proliferation of terrorism across the region and the continued suppression of gross human rights violation.