Four days into the Saudi-Canada crisis and here's a longish update on what the Saudi authorities have done, and what Saudi media is saying:
I tweeted this thread three days ago. Was it just three days ago? feels like a week:
Since then, Saudi Arabia has pulled all of its patients from Canadian hospitals. Not sure how that works if the patient is in the middle of life-saving treatment or awaiting sensitive surgery.
Of course they're also going ahead with pulling all Saudi students from Canada. Official explanation says they'll just enroll them elsewhere, question is what about dissertations, lab work, residence (if studying medicine)…
This Saudi student wondered how he can be recalled in a month, when he's defending his dissertation in two months. A government troll responds: "What do you think you are, Newton? Just come back home and work in a mobile shop".
The student in question has since deleted his tweet after it got too much attention. Given their dependence on their government, many Saudi citizens wouldn't want to risk angering their authorities.
Saudi social media commentary has been bitterly funny. This one says "When you're recalled from Canada and have to finish your degree at the Imam Ibn Saud University"
And in reply to that: When you're recalled from Canada and have to finish your degree at Imam University, and you "get a supervisor who fails you in the Qur'an subject"
Saudi Arabia is also selling off all of its Canadian assets "no matter the price". Which seems bizarre. You can divest in a way that recovers your asset's worth. But to declare a firesale on your own assets in Canada?
Not a surprise, but Russia (and also Algeria and Pakistan) have come out in support of the Saudi regime. I mean, any regime that doesn't like to be criticized for its terrible human rights record (or receives Saudi money) will be on board.
This Saudi portal created an infographic titled "A storm of international and Arab support for Saudi actions against Canada", featuring Trudeau wearing a Saudi-flag hijab I think.
But here's a key point. Economic openness is the backbone of MBS's reform vision for his country. For that, he needs to foster goodwill with vibrant economies. Russia, Algeria, and Pakistan aren't:…
As this piece in the NYT says, from an economic point of view this looks pretty bad on Saudi Arabia, and barely scratches Canada's economy.
You wouldn't think that though if you were following Saudi controlled media, where the anti-Canada campaign continues. Remember this (from three days ago) where they say that Jordan Peterson is a prisoner of conscience?
Saudi state-controlled media has continued to call out Canada's "human rights violations". It's kinda like whataboutism, only stupider. I love this one where they're demanding that Canada free a Nazi corpse
Here's selected news clippings from today (h/t @zaidbenjamin). The Canada crisis is front page news of course. According to this, Canadian ministers are telling their PM that "the solution is only to be found in Riyadh"
@zaidbenjamin Here's another one. I don't know what this is supposed to mean, but Canada, you should feel bad now. You have no pants and you're shitting a maple leaf. Wait, the caption says, "the fig leaf falls" - I guess you were using a maple leaf as fig leaf underwear
@zaidbenjamin On the same page: "Saudi Arabia is too strong to be conspired against"; "Experts say Canada is harboring terrorist leaders and is hindering the war on terror" (the main heading and subtitle). Shame on you Canada, you harbor terrorists and have no pants on.
@zaidbenjamin This one says that the Canadian dollar is reeling and has crashed vs the USD since Saudi authorities declared they're divesting from Canada (it would take 6 seconds to check, it isn't true)
@zaidbenjamin Btw, for all the Saudi regime does to show it's NOT the Iranian regime, their whataboutism attack on Canada is strangely similar to when PressTV also called out Canada's "crimes against its indigenous population" back in 2013:…
@zaidbenjamin On the diplomatic front, and as predicted, Canada's response was both polite and firm.
@zaidbenjamin Meanwhile the Saudi regime doesn't even want talks. On this show, a Saudi columnist says the foreign ministry was clear - Saudi Arabia will accept no mediation. He also says the Saudi actions were met with "wide praise across the world".
@zaidbenjamin Some context. Saudi Arabia is today a more absolute monarchy than it was prior. MBS is the sole ruler, and has a small circle of trusted advisers. MBS's personality shapes Saudi policy far more directly than any previous monarch's did.
@zaidbenjamin MBS isn't very good at doing subtle diplomacy or walking back his mistakes - his response is normally to double down and get even more intransigent. Every fight he starts is sold as a quick affair but descends into a quagmire (think Yemen, Qatar, and now this).
@zaidbenjamin So MBS didn't really give himself any way to walk this back, and didn't leave Canada with much space either. He wants a capitulation-style public apology, the kind that's just impossible for a self-respecting country to do.
@zaidbenjamin MBS is mistaking Canada (a NATO state and a G7 member country), for Qatar. Only even Qatar didn't submit to his all-or-nothing, submit-or-get-boycotted demands. Difference here is he can't build a nuclear moat around Canada. He can build one around Qatar
@zaidbenjamin All of this tells me this is going to last a while. Note, even his immediate actions are practically irreversible - pulling students & patients out and divesting from Canada's economy. How's he going to reverse this if Canada "apologizes"?
@zaidbenjamin I mean, it's bizarre. It's kinda like brinkmanship if you don't know how to do brinkmanship. With brinkmanship it's "give me what I want or I go nuts". You don't go nuts *first* and then make your demands, that doesn't... oh, I give up.
@zaidbenjamin Meanwhile, some prominent Democrats have been outspoken in opposition to MBS - in particular check statements by @ChrisMurphyCT. Why do I point this out? MBS seems to have put all of his eggs in Trump's basket. Trump won't be in the White House forever.
@zaidbenjamin @ChrisMurphyCT MBS's relationship with Trump is deep - the KSA & UAE intervened in this US election, both before & after. Here's a long but well-documented thread on that (the thread is from March so it's missing recent additional revelations):
@ChrisMurphyCT In an astounding statement, the leader of Canada's NDP party says Canada should simply buy its oil elsewhere, calling for "an alternative to dealing with a nation that has a serious track record of human rights violations".…
@ChrisMurphyCT Meanwhile, Canada's standing up for Saudi women's rights activists is garnering more global civil society support. Here's a statement from Nobel Women.
@ChrisMurphyCT The world is seeing clearly that Saudi Arabia under MBS isn't reforming, it's a bad actor and a very destabilizing entity. This doesn't bode well when you hitched all your hopes on Trump. The pendulum that swung towards Trump will eventually swing the other way.
@ChrisMurphyCT When the pendulum swings the other way, and Trump leaves office (hopefully more sooner than later), MBS may find himself facing a Democrat US administration that makes him miss the Obama years. Only, everyone would have become more bitter by then.
@ChrisMurphyCT The stream of bad optics for MBS continues - yesterday, the Saudi-UAE coalition bombed a bus full of children in Yemen. In response, this is what the Saudi officials (and UAE media) said:
@ChrisMurphyCT Anyway, this thread is already too long. If you want some wider context or more resources, there's this thread:
@ChrisMurphyCT If you want a very short but well documented explainer, I liked the one Vox did (under 600 words):…
@ChrisMurphyCT Let me just echo Saudi academic and women's rights activist @Hala_Aldosari. We've been trying to tell the world what MBS is doing, but nobody paid attention. Until MBS kinda did us a favor. Now everyone is paying attention.
@ChrisMurphyCT @Hala_Aldosari And remember how this started - with a brutal Saudi regime crackdown on Saudi Arabia's most renowned and influential women's rights activists:
@ChrisMurphyCT @Hala_Aldosari And this again has to be my final point. Good night guys.
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