Saudi Arabia and Canada

- THE NEW YORK TIMES

Aug 9, 2018-Saudi Arabia and its crockery-breaking heir apparent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, are, once again, opening up claims of advancing a more progressive future for the kingdom to doubt. Riyadh expelled the Canadian ambassador and announced a freeze on all new business with Canada, which counts Saudi Arabia as its second-largest export market in the Middle East. The Saudis also said the kingdom would withdraw from Canada the approximately 12,000 Saudi students on government-funded scholarships and family members and transfer them to other countries. It’s not unusual for countries to balk at external criticism. But this Saudi retribution is unnecessarily aggressive and clearly intended to intimidate critics into silence. It’s the kind of move that, in the past, would have immediately elicited a firm, unified opposition from the West. Canada ran afoul of the Saudis when its foreign ministry called for the release of the women’s rights activist Samar Badawi, who was arrested last week. The Saudis claim that the Canadian statement is “an overt and blatant interference” in its internal affairs, but that argument is specious. Since ascending to power with his father, King Salman, in 2015, Prince Mohammed has encouraged foreign investment, granted women the right to drive, opened commercial movie theaters for the first time in 30 years and worked to soften the kingdom’s ultraconservative official school of Islam. But he also has evinced an authoritarian edge, locking up clerics, activists and businessmen. And by expelling the Canadian ambassador, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman undermines the reforms he has made.

Published: 09-08-2018 07:50

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