Saudi Arabia expelling Canadian ambassador, freezing trade and investment over human rights criticism

Saudi Arabia, in the midst of historic reforms under the iron fist of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is sending a strong message to Canada and the other liberal democracies of the world: butt out.  That is how I explain the strong reactions from the kingdom's government to Canadian criticism of its human rights policies.

Canada's government tweeted:

Saudi Arabia, in the midst of historic reforms under the iron fist of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is sending a strong message to Canada and the other liberal democracies of the world: butt out.  That is how I explain the strong reactions from the kingdom's government to Canadian criticism of its human rights policies.

Canada's government tweeted:

Saudi Arabia's response was quick and vehement. The UK Guardian reports:

Saudi Arabia has ordered the Canadian ambassador to leave the country and suspended new trade and investment with Ottawa after Canada's foreign ministry urged Riyadh to release arrested civil rights activists.

A statement released by the Saudi Press Agency said the foreign ministry gave the Canadian ambassador 24 hours to leave the country and recalled its own ambassador to Canada, adding it retained "its rights to take further action".

"The kingdom of Saudi Arabia ... will not accept interference in its internal affairs or imposed diktats from any country," the foreign ministry tweeted.

"The kingdom announces that it is recalling its ambassador ... to Canada for consultation."

The Foreign Ministry of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia took to Twitter to denounce Canada in a series of tweets, starting with these:

 

 

Shortly after these tweets, the KSA government announced that it was freezing new trade and investment ties.  The BBC reports:

Saudi Arabia has said it is freezing all new trade and investment with Canada over its "interference" in the Gulf Kingdom's internal affairs. ...

The Saudi ministry described Canada's position as "an attack" on the kingdom, saying it would now:

Freeze all new trade and investment transactions between the two countries

Consider the Canadian ambassador persona non grata and order the envoy to leave within 24 hours

Recall the Saudi envoy in Canada

Reserve the right to take further action

It appears to me that Crown Prince Mohammed is worried that his reforms, such as permitting women to drive, could provoke hardcore Wahhabi clerics into urging an overthrow of the Royal Family's autocratic rule.  The last thing he wants is for foreign countries to add momentum to those reforms so that the social changes could be portrayed as being driven by infidels in Canada or anywhere else in the West.

Of course, I want full rights for Saudi women, as well as many other reforms in that kingdom slowly extracting itself from a seventh-century way of life.  But I also realize that these reforms can proceed only within an Islamic version of the Overton Window.  Right now, it appears that MbS and his advisers want to keep the pace of change a bit slower than that preferred by Justin Trudeau's minions in Ottawa.

Hat tip: John McMahon