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article imageSaudi Arabia escalates dispute with Canada as U.S. stays mum

By Karen Graham     Aug 8, 2018 in Politics
Riyadh - As the diplomatic crisis between Saudi Arabia and Canada escalates, the United States — Canada’s most important ally and largest trade partner — declined to come to the defense of the Canadian government.
On Tuesday, Canada's Finance Minister Bill Morneau again asserted that Canada will continue to stand up for Canadian values even as it finds itself in the middle of this escalating dispute. Canada will continue to "enunciate" what it believes are the "appropriate ways of dealing with citizens," Morneau told a news conference in Mississauga, Ontario.
Saudi Arabia's crown prince has now shown he has "thin skin" when it comes to being criticised and perhaps more telling, he will not be taking any guff from any country. This is why one analyst who spoke with CBC News says a "groveling" public apology from Canada is likely the only way to resolve the dispute.
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The whole dispute started on Friday when Canada's Foreign Affairs Department sent out a tweet saying it was "gravely concerned" about the arrest of political activists in Saudi Arabia - then called for the release of women's rights activist Samar Badawi and others.
Political activist Samar Badawi of Saudi Arabia  seen here in a March 8  2012 filer  was swept up in...
Political activist Samar Badawi of Saudi Arabia, seen here in a March 8, 2012 filer, was swept up in a Saudi crackdown on human rights campaigners
ALEX WONG, GETTY/AFP/File
The Saudi response, according to foreign policy analyst Daniel Drezner of Tufts University in Massachusetts was "the oddest sanctions effort" he's seen in a long time. It includes:
The expulsion of Canada's ambassador.
A freeze on "all new trade and investment transactions" between the two countries.
The suspension of all Saudi flights to and from Toronto.
An order for Saudi students to leave Canadian schools.
Plans to transfer all Saudi nationals receiving medical treatment in Canada to hospitals outside the country.
Rex Brynen, a political science professor at McGill University who specializes in Middle East politics says, "We've seen it before when they've been criticized by the Swedes and the Germans — often very mild criticism — that they've reacted quite harshly," he said. "So it's partly Saudi Arabia I think is allergic to criticism."
But despite what analysts might speculate are the reasons behind the dispute - and there are quite a number of them, University of Waterloo's Bessma Momani suspects Saudi Arabia's sanctions actually have more to do with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's penchant for brash foreign policy moves.
Saudi Arabia is lifting its ban on women drivers as part of much-publicised reforms by Crown Prince ...
Saudi Arabia is lifting its ban on women drivers as part of much-publicised reforms by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to modernise the petro-state
Bryan R. Smith, AFP/File
The thing is, since becoming the heir-apparent last year, the crown prince has become increasingly assertive in achieving the country's foreign and domestic policy goals. And while he pledged to open up the ultra-conservative country, he has also shown an increased intolerance to criticism.
Saudi Arabia is also one of the world's top executioners, and interestingly, amid Riyadh's escalating diplomatic dispute with Canada, the country chose today to put a condemned murderer to death by crucifixion.
It should be noted, too, that the U.S. has stayed out of the dispute, keeping its mouth shut, even though Canada is our staunchest ally and biggest trade partner. But the world forgets that no one else is coming to Canada's defense either. This is an interesting situation and reminiscent of school-yard fights where the biggest bully takes on an adversary and everyone else backs away to see how the fight will play out.
More about Saudi arabia, Canada, Human rights abuse, escalaion, United States
 
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