An official Twitter account of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia threatened Canada with another 9/11 earlier today, as the two countries square off in an ongoing diplomatic crisis. The account posted a graphic of an Air Canada plane bearing down on Toronto’s CN Tower:
This tweet by an official Saudi propaganda account @Infographic_ksa has now been deleted.
Seems they realized that reminding us that 15 of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi is not a great idea. pic.twitter.com/N82QbVIpTi
— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) August 6, 2018
They have since reposted the graphic without the airplane:
It bears mentioning that 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were Saudi citizens.
The current back and forth between Canada and Saudi Arabia began when the Canadian Foreign Ministry called last Friday for the release of human rights activists in the Kingdom:
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.
— Foreign Policy CAN (@CanadaFP) August 3, 2018
Very alarmed to learn that Samar Badawi, Raif Badawi’s sister, has been imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this difficult time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi.
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) August 2, 2018
Yesterday, in response to Canada’s call for the release of the activists, Saudi Arabia announced that it was expelling the Canadian ambassador and suspending any new trade deals:
Statement | The KSA announces the freezing of all new trade and investment transactions between the KSA and Canada. The KSA reserves its right to take further action.
— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) August 5, 2018
Earlier today, the Saudis announced they were withdrawing approximately 14,000 Saudi students studying in Canada:
Ministry of Education spokesperson: Saudi government suspends all training, fellowship, scholarship programs to Canada along with expedited procedures to facilitate the transition of more than 14 thousands Saudi Students to other approved scholarship countries https://t.co/WvrxUKFoL6
— SSSSUK | الجمعية العلمية بالمملكة المتحدة (@SSSS_UK) August 6, 2018
It’s unclear what stakes are at play in the ongoing dispute. Canada, which has the third-largest oil reserves in the world (mostly oil sands), imports only 9 percent of its oil from Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the Saudis have said that Canada’s criticism amounted to interference in the Kingdom’s internal affairs, and threatened that they would respond in kind, according to The Globe and Mail:
In a statement released through the Saudi Press Agency, Riyadh bluntly condemned the criticism from Ms. Freeland and the Department of Global Affairs, calling it “blatant interference in the Kingdom’s domestic affairs, against basic international norms and all international protocols” and a “major, unacceptable affront to the Kingdom’s laws and judicial process, as well as a violation of the Kingdom’s sovereignty.”
The Saudis warned in a statement that any more criticism will be interpreted as licence to meddle in Canadian affairs.
“Any further step from the Canadian side in that direction will be considered as acknowledgment of our right to interfere in the Canadian domestic affairs,” the Saudis said.
A spokeswoman for Ms. Freeland said late Sunday night the Canadian government is trying to make contact with the Saudis.
“We are seriously concerned by these media reports and are seeking greater clarity on the recent statement from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” Marie-Pier Baril said. “Canada will always stand up for the protection of human rights, including women’s rights, and freedom of expression around the world. Our government will never hesitate to promote these values and believes that this dialogue is critical to international diplomacy.”
This crisis puts Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a difficult position after his government approved a multi-billion dollar controversial arms trade deal involving hundreds of heavy weapons. He defended the deal earlier this year by saying the sale was in line with his country’s foreign and defense priorities.
Conversely, the Saudi over-the-top response to criticism comes as Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman continues to pitch his message of reforms in the Kingdom, including scaling back extremist rhetoric, cracking down on corruption, and allowing women in the country to begin to drive.
Bin Salman’s “reformist” message during a global tour earlier this year has been swallowed up whole by the Western establishment. Western governments have repeatedly pointed to the cosmetic reforms as the basis for increasing support for the Kingdom, and U.S. media and think tanks have tripped over each other fawning over his program.
While Saudi Arabia is not a considerable export partner for Canada, the United States is. How the Trump administration responds to the ongoing crisis could weigh heavily in the ongoing NAFTA renegotiations between the U.S. and Canada.
Certainly, threatening Canada with another 9/11 will not make the Saudis popular with most Americans.