I AM SKEPTICAL OF SAUDI ARABIA, BUT TRUDEAU TOOK THINGS TOO FAR
I have said in the past that the Saudi Crown Prince provided reason for hope, but even I never could have imagined what said a few months ago.
In an interview with the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, the Crown Prince referred to a “triangle of evil”: Iran, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Sunni terror groups.
He then went on to describe an alliance of more moderate states that includes Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Oman against this “triangle of evil.”
The Crown Prince added, “I believe the Iranian supreme leader makes Hitler look good. Hitler didn’t do what the supreme leader is trying to do. Hitler tried to conquer Europe. … The supreme leader is trying to conquer the world.”
I have to admit, reading this, I was starting to wonder if the Crown Prince had somehow had his brain taken over by Benjamin Netanyahu.
This thought was compounded by the fact that the Prince also had nothing but positive words to say to Goldberg about Israel.
“I believe that each people, anywhere, has a right to live in their peaceful nation. I believe the Palestinians and the Israelis have the right to have their own land.”
A two-state solution. Clearly, this is not your mother’s Saudi Crown Prince to say the least.
So imagine my surprise when I saw what is happening between the Saudis and Canada at the moment.
If you missed it, here is a brief recap:
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.
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.”
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.”
Considering the other positive steps taken by the Saudi Crown Prince such as, sweeping up some of the most connected business and political leaders in the country as part of an anti-corruption probe, including Royal Family Members and executives (charges range from bribery to money laundering to extortion)and liberalizing of several Saudi laws meant towards greater gender equity, including women above a certain age being allowed to drive at certain times of day, the Canada news was distressing.
And the Saudis DO have an especially bad history.
Over the years they have funded numerous bad acts and it is worth keeping in mind that a whopping 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals. Plus, they outright refused to help one bit with the refugee crisis that has been tearing their region apart.
Simply put, Saudi Arabia has gotten away with things no poor country would have gotten away with and it is unconscionable.
But I think quiet diplomacy may have been the way to go here instead of such strong public reactions.
Poor history aside, the current Crown Prince seems to be a leader who actually wants to change things in a positive way for the people of Saudi Arabia. This is the first time in a long time that could truly be said, and it represents a terrific opportunity, one that may very well have been squandered by Trudeau’s hasty actions and words.
We must recognize that imperfections aside, the corruption arrests and reforms appear to indicate some real potential progress on the unconscionable abuses Saudi Arabia has been responsible for in the past.
And the Crown Prince’s words about Israel, along with his apparent willingness to work with moderate countries, and the harsh rebuke for the Supreme Leader of Iran have been incredibly encouraging.
The Saudis seem to finally be starting to move in the right direction and I would hate to think that the brash actions of Prime Minister Trudeau could significantly stunt so much of the progress we have seen.
I hope Trudeau sits down, really thinks about this carefully, and regroups with a different, more diplomatic strategy.
Be firm, but do not be unnecessarily hostile.
Peace through strength, as Ronald Reagan once said.
Let’s just hope Justin Trudeau remembers that.