What began as a comment on Twitter from the Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister over a series of arrests in Saudi Arabia became an international incident. Saudi Arabia has publicly denounced Canada, ordered the early termination from university of Saudi students studying in Canada, the withdrawal of Saudi patents from Canada, and the dumping of all Canadian assets and imports from the country, and even threatened Canada with 9/11 style terrorism:
The diplomatic dispute began last week after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland tweeted concerns about the news that several social activists had been arrested in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi, a women’s rights activist who is the sister of imprisoned dissident blogger Raif Badawi, whose wife is a Canadian citizen and lives in Quebec.
On Aug. 2, Freeland called for the release of the prisoners, and a day later, her department tweeted further criticism and called for the “immediate release” of Badawi.
Saudi Arabia has consistently been flagged as one of the worst violators of human rights by groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.
The ultraconservative kingdom did not take the tweet lightly.
In a series of angry tweets on Sunday, the Saudi foreign ministry criticized Canada’s “negative and surprising attitude” and called the country’s position “an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of #SaudiArabia.”
“Canada has made a mistake and needs to fix it,” Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Wednesday. “The ball is in Canada’s court.”
In a steady string of retaliatory measures, Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry expelled Canada’s ambassador and suspended all business and trade between the two countries.
The nation is also ending thousands of Saudi scholarship programs in Canada, arranging for all Saudi patients in Canadian hospitals to be transferred out of the country, blacklisted Canadian wheat and barley and ordered the asset managers of their central bank and pension funds to dump Canadian assets “no matter the cost.”
Saudi Arabia has always been hypersensitive to criticism of human rights, according to Braun. For example, in 2015 Sweden criticized the kingdom’s human rights record, and as a result, Saudi Arabia took harsh diplomatic measures and expelled Sweden’s ambassador.
But Braun said the kingdom’s reaction to Canada seems to be more severe.
“Maybe the ruling family wants to make an example of Canada and send a message internationally, that Saudi Armada will extract a high cost for those who interfere in domestic affairs,” he said.
The nation also has a young new crown prince in power, Mohammed bin Salman, who is taking steps forward to modernize the country.
“By contrast to the old regime, the country believes it is modernizing, such as allowing women to drive, although this may seem minute to us,” Braun explained. “They see themselves as trying to engage in reform, but they are not being rewarded for it, instead Canada is shaming them. So it’s not only anger, it’s a lack of recognition.”
On Monday, a Saudi youth organization shared and then deleted an image on Twitter that appeared to show an Air Canada plane heading toward the CN Tower in Toronto, evoking images of the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.
“As the Arabic saying goes: ‘He who interferes with what doesn’t concern him finds what doesn’t please him,’” read a message superimposed over the image from the Twitter account @infographic_KSA. It also accused Canada of “sticking one’s nose where it doesn’t belong.”
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s energy minister assured Canada that the kingdom’s diplomatic dispute with Ottawa won’t affect oil sales. Around 10 per cent of Canada’s oil imports come from Saudi Arabia. Bilateral trade between the two nations is around $3 billion a year.
Canada has had a long history of standing up for human rights internationally.
“For Canadian leaders to criticize the human rights in other countries is not surprising,” Braun said. But he added it may have been the public platform that Canada used in order to shame Saudi Arabia that left the kingdom so angry.
“Was this a wise decision to public shame rather than quiet diplomacy? So far it did not have the desired results,” he said. “We have not seen the release of these people.”
None of Canada’s allies has spoken out publicly in defence out of what experts describe as fear of being cut out from doing business deals in the lucrative Saudi economy. (source)
The entire incident sounds very odd. It is particularly so because it involves Canada.
Canada is not a country that is a particular “troublemaker” in world affairs. Nations such as the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Russia, China, Japan, India, and Pakistan are rightfully guilty of attempting throughout their history to manipulate domestic and world events to their favor, as such is common to any nation with a significantly powerful role. Even with Canada’s well-known domestic problems and support of deviant behaviors and lifestyles, she is not a major antagonist between nations. Generally speaking she minds her own business, stays silent, and if she does speak up on a major issue, it is in accordance with something brought up by her American neighbor. She is the 25th strongest military in the world (Mexico by comparison is the 32nd strongest), and the chance of Canada defeating the US in a military conflict is less likely than the victory of UMBC over Virginia in the 2018 NCAA College Basketball tournament.
The angry reaction of Saudi Arabia, regardless of how upset they may be, is completely disproportionate to the “crime” committed. Even with relatively irrelevant dictatorial micronations, which tend to have leaders prone to despotic behavior, are such actions only seen on occasion in public. To react as Saudi Arabia did is on the international level, to throw a giant tantrum.
This is how Saudi Arabia looks to the world.
Why would Saudi Arabia react this way?
A clue is found at the recent World Government Summit in the U.A.E., Saudi Arabia gave a special presentation about the future of the nation. Speaking in positive terms, the Saudi’s said they wanted to focus away from just oil and towards oil-derived products, but most surprisingly, towards entertainment. The Kingdom has appointed a minister of entertainment, and has boasted they want to make Saudi Arabia a world destination for entertainment, as the video below shows:
As video shows, Saudi Arabia wants to attract people from around the world to her nation to visit and spend money. They are attempting to remake themselves in the eyes of the world not just economically, but politically as well by maintaining their image as a strong Muslim nation yet showing that they are also “modern” and part of the rest of the world in a socially and culturally acceptable manner. While there are many nations that carry out routine executions and purges of people they do not like, such as China, they keep that information away from public eyes because it presents an image they do not want people to associate with them. Saudi Arabia is in the minds of many people, Muslim and non-Muslim, a desert wasteland with oil fields, camels, terrorists, a major Islamic religious site, and a bunch of overly wealthy oil sheikhs who spend their days in luxury and wasting money on paying Western prostitutes to indulge their most debauched fantasies, and anybody who criticizes them is beheaded on Friday after juma prayers at the mosque.
The non-Muslim world neither likes nor trusts Saudi Arabia, and because they are afraid for their safety they will not spend their money there. However, they will spend it in Dubai because why the U.A.E. treats foreigners who violate her laws as savagely as Saudi Arabia does, they have a more “friendly” public image, and people are more comfortable spending their money. The Muslim world hates Saudi Arabia for this reason and because many pious Muslims view the Saud family as puppet rulers who usurped custodial power over Mecca and Medina yet do not live a life consistent with Islamic beliefs. This feeling is especially strong in Turkey, since she was the historical custodian of those sites for centuries.
Nobody likes Saudi Arabia. She is an ally of the USA and Israel, but both will act out of self interest, the Israelis in their economic and political survival, and the Americans to get as much access to cheap oil as possible while attempting to undermine any possible Russian influence for their own geopolitical aims. If the choice is between Saudi Arabia or Israel, it will be Israel every time.
In the meantime, Saudi Arabia is surrounded by fellow Muslim nations who want to destroy her. She has an ally technically in Egypt, but Egypt is weak and will need to care for her own needs in the light of a rising Turkey. Bahrain and the U.A.E. are potential allies, but it would be impossible for them to stand up against a Turco-Iranian union because the nations are outnumbered, out-manpowered, outgunned, and isolated, as well as accustomed to a life of luxury from oil money. If anything, they will submit as vassal states to preserve their wealth and lives.
Some may say that Russia would step in as an ally to the Saudis. However, if Russia were to “back” Saudi Arabia, it could automatically be used as an excuse for Turkey and Iran to move towards war against Russia. Russia would fight them, but that could also give Japan a “clear signal” to attack Russia from the east. Any declaration of war that involves Japan or Turkey means Germany will come along and by extension also the Americans, which could start a war in the West. Since Russia cannot afford any more wars than she absolutely has to deal with, Russia will wait for one of these neighboring nations to move first against her.
Saudi Arabia has only one serious ally, and that is Pakistan, who is also hated by her Iranian and Indian neighbors. In the eyes of Iran and India, Pakistan is the treasonous loser who wants to be just like the people that destroyed both of their civilizations. While this makes Pakistan the natural ally of Saudi Arabia, it also cements in the mind of her neighbors their hatred of Pakistan and gives reasons to move against her. Pakistan may have moved 10,000 troops to eastern Saudi Arabia, but there is no guarantee of safety for her, and Pakistan may withdraw those troops in the event of a potential war with her neighbors.
Saudi Arabia is also suffering from internal dissention, especially over poverty. While the royal Saud family lives in luxury and indulges in all the haram delights of the Western world, her people are withering away under rising unemployment and internal stress. Interestingly, the time that Saudi Arabia began her spat with Canada is when she released her unemployment statistics showing that over one-eighth of the nation was out of work and that Saudi was considering selling off ARAMCO assets to service debts:
Saudi officials are scrambling to reverse rising unemployment that could test the patience of the youthful supporters Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman needs for his plan to rid the kingdom of its reliance on oil.
One proposal discussed by officials involved the creation of as many as 500,000 government jobs, even though Prince Mohammed’s blueprint for the post-oil era was based on cutting the public payroll, according to three people familiar with the matter. That idea isn’t likely to be pursued, one of the people said, but the fact that it was even proposed is a sign of growing pressure on the issue.
For the quarter-million or so young Saudis who each year enter the job market, Prince Mohammed’s employment targets matter most. More eye-catching elements to his so-called Vision 2030 modernization project abound — the promised sale of a stake in oil giant Saudi Aramco; plans for a futuristic city pulsing with artificial intelligence; women finally getting the right to drive. But in Riyadh and Jeddah and places in between, it’s primarily about work.
“Creating sufficient jobs to reduce the unemployment level is one of the most challenging parts” of the transformation plan, “and ultimately the litmus test for if the program has succeeded,” said Monica Malik, chief economist for Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank and a longtime Saudi watcher.
The latest data will be a disappointment for the crown prince, who’s King Salman’s son and the power behind the throne. The jobless rate for Saudi citizens has increased to 12.9 percent, its highest level in more than a decade, from 11.6 percent at the time he announced the economic overhaul in 2016. The plan’s targets of 9 percent unemployment by 2020 and 7 percent by 2030 appear far off.
While the government will continue to hire Saudis “based upon real need,” it remains committed to creating a more efficient public sector, according to a Saudi official who spoke on the customary condition of anonymity. A plan to employ half a million nationals “has no factual basis and was never on the table as such. The question was how to increase suitable job opportunities” for Saudis in general, the official said in response to questions from Bloomberg.
Prince Mohammed has vowed to overhaul the economy of the world’s biggest oil exporter in little over a decade, a feat other commodity producers struggled to achieve. What makes the task more daunting is that almost half of Saudis are younger than 25, and creating jobs for them is crucial to avoid unrest in a region roiled by turmoil since the 2011 Arab Spring.
New measures including extra fees for expat workers and restricting hiring in some sectors to Saudi citizens have helped push hundreds of thousands of foreigners out of the kingdom, most of them formerly employed in construction, trade and manufacturing. Yet unemployment among Saudi men increased to 7.6 percent in the first quarter from 7.2 percent in the same period last year, according to data from General Authority for Statistics.
A mismatch of skills and wage expectations between citizen and foreign labor forces is partly to blame, according to an analysis by Ziad Daoud, chief Middle East economist for Bloomberg Economics in Dubai. More than half of foreign workers are low-skilled, and Saudis are paid 1.5 to 3 times more than expatriates with the same education levels.
Daoud said the kingdom will need to add as many as 700,000 jobs by 2020 to reach the 9 percent unemployment target, a figure that dwarfs the number created over the past few years. Even a more modest projection released in January for 10.6 percent unemployment in 2020 would require creating 600,000 jobs.
That’s about 15 times more than the number generated between the beginning of 2016 and the end of the first quarter this year, according to an estimate by Tamer El Zayat, head of macroeconomics for Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank.
The government official said authorities regularly review Vision 2030 targets to take into account changes and priorities.
Companies have struggled to adjust to recent government efforts to shore up the nation’s finances, including subsidy cuts and a value-added tax. Hiring has been restrained as the economy labored. Last year, as the kingdom cut oil output, gross domestic product contracted 0.9 percent.
While it grew 1.2 percent in the first quarter this year, even optimistic forecasts over the next couple of years “will be nowhere near enough to meet the unemployment target,” said Daoud. “It would take a huge fiscal expansion, which the government can ill-afford, to achieve such strong growth rates and add 700,000 jobs.”
A massive government hiring spree could ease the pressure in the short term. But in many ways it would undermine the prince’s long-term goals.
“A decision to ramp up public-sector employment would go completely against the target outlined in the National Transformation Plan, which called for a 20 percent reduction in the number of civil servants,” said Jason Tuvey, a senior emerging markets economist for Capital Economics in London. “Moreover, it will simply exacerbate a problem that has been around for decades now.” (source)
Massive unemployment leads to social unrest. In August 2017 Shoebat.com reported how the Saudi government has been secretly dispatching troops to quell internal unrest throughout the nation. The Saudi people are angry and their government, and nothing is being done to stop them except that they are being brutally silenced in order to maintain the image that Saudi Arabia is not dissolving in real time.
However, the image of order can only be maintained for so long before the truth is revealed. It has come out most obviously in Saudi policy towards Yemen, with which she is engaged in a war over Shiite Houthi rebels backed by Iran. The US has backed the Saudis for political reasons, even as the Saudis openly massacre people. In a recent development, the Saudis butchered 43 people and injured 60 for the whole world to see:
“All the rules have been broken in Yemen’s war, each side accuses the other of violence” and there are no certainties “about the responsibilities”; in the face of this escalation “the sense of impotence and total powerlessness is evident”, says Msgr. Paul Hinder.
The Apostolic Vicar for Southern Arabia (United Arab Emirates, Oman and Yemen), was speaking to AsiaNews in the aftermath of the attack on a busload of children, which caused dozens of victims. “However, whoever is responsible for these massacres – warns the bishop – is truly unscrupulous who operated in violation of all rules, even basic, in a war context”.
The Saudi Arabian coalition is behind the attack in Dahyan, in the province of Saada (stronghold of the Houthi rebels), already accused in the past of being responsible for 51% of deaths among civilians, including those of children . A bus carrying a group of schoolchildren, returning from a trip, was in the crosshairs of Riyadh’s missiles. Commenting on the operation, Colonel Turki Al-Maliki, a Saudi spokesman, has instead called the raid “legitimate” in response to the attacks of the Houthi “responsible for launching a missile” in southern Saudi Arabia.
The updated budget speaks of at least 43 dead, of which about thirty children between the ages of six and 14 and more than 60 injured. The rescuers extracted the bodied of children with backpacks still on their shoulders and wearing uniforms. When the vehicle was hit it was stationary near a market, to allow the group to buy drinks to cool off during the trip.
The International Red Cross reports that the corpses of 29 children, all under the age of 15, are being held in the structure of Saada and that there are 48 wounded among them 30 minors. 36 other injured, including 24 children, were registered at the al-Jomhouri hospital run by the staff of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), all in evident state of serious shock.
An endless violence that is being consumed beneath the impotent gaze of international diplomacy. In these hours, the UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has called a new round of peace talks in Geneva for 6 September, but the hope for peace is limited. “The situation is terrible – says Msgr. Hinder – what happened yesterday is the pinnacle of incredible cruelty “. The prelate hopes that “diplomacy will move”, but “at least four weeks are left to until peace talks and, in the meantime, the war continues. We just have to hope, and pray”. (source)
The truth about Saudi Arabia is that she is dying. She is losing control over her internal and external functions and in order to project strength at a time of weakness, she started a fight with Canada because there are no serious diplomatic consequences that could come from it. The fact that Saudi Arabia is doing this for show is proven by how she is not cutting oil exports to Canada, since Saudi Arabia depends on oil for her survival.
Saudi Arabia’s largest import sources are China (15%), USA (12%), Germany (6.2%), South Korea (4.5%), and the U.K. (4.3%). Canada represents a mere .79% of all Saudi imports. Even if she were to completely sever all ties with Canada, it would not harm her economy except for the export of oil to Canada.
What Saudi Arabia is terrified of is her northern Turkish neighbor. Turkey is a powerful, modern country with the 8th most powerful military on earth who historically controlled the Arabian Peninsula. She is an example of a “modern” and Muslim nation, which Saudi Arabia is attempting to show the world that she is but is failing to do so. Turkey has a diverse economy, while Saudi Arabia is dependent on oil and gas exports. President Erdogan of Turkey presents himself as a powerful and pious Muslim ruler, while the Saudi present themselves as a combination of hedonistic batchelors mixed with oriental despotism.
Turkey is rising. Saudi Arabia is falling. Saudi’s “dates and dabke diplomacy” is failing, and like a goose fattened for the slaughter, Turkey is waiting for her opportunity to khazouk the royal family and take what she feels is her place as imperial ruler again. Iran will watch and, if given the opportunity, may attack Saudi Arabia before turning with her historical Aryan ally of India to annihilate Pakistan.
Saudi Arabia is going to scream as loud as she can and make a scene. She wants this to distract from her internal disorder. But the louder she screams the stranger she sounds, and the deafer the ears of the world will be to her as eventually her voice will be drowned out by the war cry of the Turk as she marches to Mecca and, as Mohammed did centuries ago, seized power and puts to death all her enemies.
Addenda: And on a final note about Saudi Arabia’s entertainment scent- Rap and R&B music has large market in the Kingdom and is one of the largest rap markets in the world. Yet it is still highly frowned upon by the Saudi Islamic authorities. It will be interesting to watch how Saudi responds to the matter.