Saudi Arabia cuts Exports to Canada over Raif Badawi

Canada's new trade war has to do with more than just Raif Badawi


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Many of us have been waiting around for Justin Trudeau’s administration to finally take a moral stand on the international stage.  Justin Trudeau has always shown a knack for lecturing countries with complete gender equality on their need for even more gender equality.  However, his first real foray into morality isn’t going so well.

Canada accidentally opened up a second trade war after its foreign ministry tweeted out:

“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.”

This did not make the Saudis happy as they tweeted back:

#Statement | KSA through its history has not and will not accept any form of interfering in the internal affairs of the Kingdom. The KSA considers the Canadian position an attack on the KSA and requires a firm stance to deter who attempts to undermine the sovereignty of the KSA

The Canadian position is an overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of #SaudiArabia and is in contravention of the most basic international norms and all the charters governing relations between States.”

This might seem a bit overblown.  Is Saudi Arabia under “attack” from Canada?  Of course not.  But that’s not how the Saudis see it.  They have recalled their Canadian ambassador and given ours 24 hours’ notice to leave the country.  More importantly, they have stopped all new trade and investment in Canada, dealing a crushing blow to our economy.

So, what is this all about?

On the surface this looks like it is a response to Raif Badawi and other activists, including his sister Samar, being jailed by the Saudi government and the subsequent Canadian response.  This could explain the situation.  Raif Badawi was a secular blogger arrested on 17 June 2012, charged with “insulting Islam through electronic channels” he was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes and a $267 000 fine for “insulting Islam”.

Raif’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, was granted refuge in Canada in 2013 and is now a Canadian citizen along with their children.  Their recent citizenship is more than enough reason to lobby the Saudis for Raif Badawi’s release, it is just they way that they did it that has some of us scratching our heads.  It is a good thing that Trudeau’s government finally stood up for human rights, next time they should try and learn something about Saudi Arabia before engaging diplomatically with them.

The first thing you should know about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is that they are a very, very, very insular country.  Saudi Arabia’s dream has always been to be left alone to live in whatever century they feel is best and just export oil for money for all eternity.  It is quite understandable that the KSA would act quite outraged after receiving a direct command from a foreign country.  Especially a country like Canada with very little international power.

Back in the Stephen Harper days, when Canada and the US were in lock step on foreign policy, Canada did have some weight to throw around.  Our Prime Minister once starred down Vladimir Putin in front of the world and said “I’ll shake your hand, but you have to get out of Ukraine”.  Those days are long gone as Justin Trudeau has tried to market himself as the anti-Trump politician.  A position that Donald Trump and the Americans are not too fond of, understandably.

All of this could explain the current situation.  Canada is very weak diplomatically right now and they committed a big sin in the eyes of the Saudi’s.  This could just be the Saudi’s swatting an annoying fly with the added bonus of looking stronger than a Western country in the G8.

Saudi Arabia exports around 63 000 barrels of oil to Canada a day. Combine that with the fact that Justin Trudeau has spent the last 3 years leading a systematic assault on the Canadian energy industry.

Canada is now facing a major crisis!

The Saudi outrage over the tweet makes sense, but going from zero to full blown trade war in 60 seconds over a tweet does not.

Here is ather possible explanation for this massive blow delivered to Canada: Iran

When the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, came bursting on to the international scene last year, reforms where dropping left and right.  Women could, drive, sing on TV and travel without a male guardian.  He took public aim at the radical islamist group the Muslim Brotherhood and even started diplomatic relations between Israel and the gulf states.  If there ever was a man that would be amiable to Raif Badawi’s case, one would think that Mohammed bin Salman would be it.

However, Justin Trudeau has been very friendly with his arch enemy, Iran.  Part of his 2015 campaign was about re-establishing ties with the Islamic Republic of Iran.  Last year he even let them murder a Canadian citizen, Kavous Seyed-Emami, and kidnap his wife for ransom.  All without a sustained criticism.  Through all this Justin Trudeau has been on of the Islamic Republic’s biggest supporters.  His brother Sasha used to work for them, making documentaries for the Islamic Republic’s international English-speaking propaganda station PressTV.

In the eyes of the Saudis this is not the time to be stumping for Iran.  For the last few years Saudi Arabia has been engaged in a proxy-war in Yemen with the Iranian backed Houthis.  A group that the Islamic Republic openly brags about arming, in Farsi at least.  When they speak English it’s all peace and love.  The KSA takes this issue so seriously that last year they organized a boycott of Qatar due to their failure to cut economic ties with Iran.

Now the war is heating up.  Iran is going through hyper inflation and is acting quite desperately.  They have threatened to close the straits of Hormuz due to sanctions and Saudi oil tankers have been attacked.

Now is the time for the international community to put an end to the terrorist regime in Tehran.  A regime that even the people of Iran have been desperately trying to overthrow since the start of the new year.  Yet, in contrast to the will of the Iranian people and Canada’s allies, the Prime minister is standing with the Islamic Republic.  Fighting against terrorism and radical Islam has never been a point of strength for the Prime Minister of Peoplekind, but this position is unexplainable.

One has to wonder if the price for Raif Badawi’s freedom was putting sanctions on Iran and making a strong public statement against the Muslim Brotherhood as dangerous radicals. Instead, Trudeaus administration opted for a strongly worded tweet.

I hate to criticize Justin Trudeau’s first moral action as Prime Minister, and Raif Badawi’s sentence is a human rights violation.  I really do hope that he can one day be reunited with his family in Canada.  I will just say that the next time he tries to take on a complicated diplomatic issue he should probably spend a few weeks studying not surfing, because the lack of diplomatic nuance has put Canada in deep trouble.


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Daniel Bordman

Daniel was born and raised in Toronto. He started doing stand up comedy in Kingston while getting his degree from Queens University. Since then he has gone on to win the 2012 Bragging Rights comedy contest in Toronto, and in 2012 he co-founded Civil Space Network, a show dedicated to political satire.

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