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PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2018 7:34 am    Post subject: Canada is diplomatically isolated in Saudi spat Reply with quote


‘We don’t have a single friend’: Canada’s Saudi spat reveals country is alone

As Saudi officials lashed out at Canada, the US remained on the sidelines, signaling a blatant shift in the relationship

Ashifa Kassam in Toronto
Sat 11 Aug 2018 10.00 BST Last modified on Sun 12 Aug 2018 00.52 BST.

Soon after Donald Trump took office, it became clear that the longstanding relationship between the United States and its northern neighbour was about to change: there were terse renegotiations of Nafta, thousands of asylum seekers walking across the shared border and attacks on against Canada’s protectionist trade policies.

But this week laid bare perhaps the most blatant shift in the relationship, as the US said it would remain on the sidelines while Saudi officials lashed out at Canada over its call to release jailed civil rights activists.

“It’s up for the government of Saudi Arabia and the Canadians to work this out,” state department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this week. “Both sides need to diplomatically resolve this together. We can’t do it for them.”

Canada’s lonely stance was swiftly noticed north of the border. “We do not have a single friend in the whole entire world,” Rachel Curran, a policy director under former Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper, lamented on Twitter.

The UK was similarly muted in its response, noted Bob Rae, a former leader of the federal Liberal party. “The Brits and the Trumpians run for cover and say ‘we’re friends with both the Saudis and the Canadians,’” “Thanks for the support for human rights, guys, and we’ll remember this one for sure.”

The spat appeared to have been sparked last week when Canada’s foreign ministry expressed its concern over the arrest of Saudi civil society and women’s rights activists, in a tweet that echoed concerns previously voiced by the United Nations.

Saudi Arabia swiftly shot back, making plans to remove thousands of Saudi students and medical patients from Canada, and suspending the state airline’s flights to and from Canada, among other actions.

Speaking to reporters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister urged Canada to “fix its big mistake” and warned that the kingdom was considering additional measures against Canada.

Analysts and regional officials said the spat had little to do with Canada, instead characterising Riyadh’s actions as a broader signal to western governments that any criticism of its domestic policies is unacceptable.

Several countries expressed support for Saudi Arabia, including Egypt and Russia. But Canada continued to stand alone, even as state-run media in the kingdom reported the beheading and “crucifixion” of a man convicted of killing a woman and carrying out other crimes.

Justin Trudeau, Canada’s prime minister, said Canada was continuing to engage diplomatically and politically with Saudi Arabia. “We have respect for their importance in the world and recognise that they have made progress on a number of important issues,” he told reporters this week.

He insisted, however, that his government would continue to press Saudi Arabia on its human rights record. “We will, at the same time, continue to speak clearly and firmly on issues of human rights at home and abroad wherever we see the need.”

In this particular dispute, Canada did not need US help, said Thomas Juneau, a professor at the University of Ottawa. “Saudi Arabia-Canada relations are very limited, so there’s not a lot of damage being done to Canada right now,” he said. “But this should be a source of major anxiety: when a real crisis comes and we are alone, what do we do?”

The week’s events have added impetus to a conversation that is slowly getting underway in Canada, Juneau said. “We are starting some serious soul-searching in the sense of what does it mean for Canada to have a US that is much more unilateral, much more dismissive of the rules and the norms and of its leadership role in the international order that it has played for 70 years?”

These changes south of the border have clearly emboldened Saudi Arabia, Juneau argued, describing the kingdom’s recent actions in Yemen, Qatar and Lebanon as a pattern of aggressive, ambitious and reckless behaviour.

He saw no immediate end to the row, particularly as neither side is suffering significant costs in the dispute. Saudi Arabia has shown little inclination in recent years to walk back from its reckless and impulsive behaviour, he said, while Canada’s federal government – facing an election in 14 months and already under fire for signing off on the sale of more than 900 armoured vehicles to Riyadh – is loth to be seen adopting any kind of conciliatory posture towards the conservative kingdom.

While some in Canada had been disappointed to see the UK and Europe opt to publicly stay out of the diplomatic spat, Juneau described it as unsurprising. “When Saudi Arabia had comparable fights with Sweden and Germany in recent years, did Canada go out of its way to side with Sweden and Germany? No, not at all,” he said. “We stayed quiet because we had nothing to gain from getting involved. So on the European side, the calculation is the same.”

Canada’s lonely stand for women’s rights in the kingdom did earn the support of some around the world; this week saw the Guardian and the New York Times publish editorials urging Europe and the US to stand with Canada. So did the Washington Post, going one step further by publishing their editorial in Arabic.

Their call was echoed by a handful of prominent voices in the US, including Bernie Sanders. “It’s entirely legitimate for democratic governments to highlight human rights issues with undemocratic governments,” the US senator wrote on Twitter. “The US must be clear in condemning repression, especially when done by governments that receive our support.”

Remember Justin's promises -- how he was going to give us a more dynamic economy? Three years later, we are diplomatically isolated and our economic future is 'uncertain'. Yet we are way higher taxes for a performance that has been lacking and is on the brink of disaster.

If only there were a leader in this country that was capable of relating to our real problems, rather than the problems of (rich) Saudi women.

Can anyone say any different?

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2018 7:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

It’s time for the Trudeau government to move past its errors and post some wins in foreign policy
John Ibbitson
The painful confrontation with Saudi Arabia is yet another example of the continuity-of-error that defines much of this Liberal government’s approach to Canada in the world.

“It’s a sad tale of unfulfilled promises and possibilities left unexplored and amateurish stumbling about,” says Daryl Copeland, a foreign policy analyst who spent three decades as a diplomat at Foreign Affairs. "And it needn’t be so.”

Chrystia Freeland’s mishandling of the contretemps with the Saudis is truly baffling. Yes, Riyadh wildly overreacted to the tweets from the Foreign Affairs Minister and her department demanding the release of human rights activists. But the prolonged detention of those activists is now virtually guaranteed, which is the very opposite of what Ms. Freeland hoped to achieve.

Beyond that, Canada earned the hostility of an important power in the Middle East. Other regional players have lined up in solidarity with the Saudis, and Canada’s traditional allies, including the United States and Britain, refuse to take sides. We are very much alone.

"Why don’t we just talk to them? Why do we have to tweet about it?” asks Richard Nimijean, a political scientist at Carleton University. Traditionally, Canadian governments have secured the release of political prisoners through quiet diplomacy. Those tweets were neither quiet nor diplomatic.

All this appears to be part of a general Liberal incoherence on foreign policy. A key aspect of that incoherence is the government’s tendency to over-promise and under-deliver.

So a “Canada is back” commitment in Paris to fight climate change morphed into the nationalization of the Trans Mountain pipeline project, to the alarm of environmental activists.

And while Mr. Trudeau promised that Canada would resume its traditional role in peacekeeping, the government took forever to commit to the mission in Mali, and that commitment was far less than originally promised.

Then, there is the Liberals’ high-minded promotion of human rights internationally, which at times has harmed this country’s national interests. Canada’s insistence on including labour, gender and environmental issues as part of trade negotiations with China caused China to walk away from those talks. Members of the new Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement are still fuming over Canada’s last-minute demands, which included new environmental and cultural provisions. And now, we have the Saudi imbroglio.

People in the Prime Minister’s office appear to be receiving bad advice from officials at Global Affairs, or ignoring good advice – the latter seems more likely – leading to gaffes and embarrassments. Remember the trip to India?

“The government is spread thin, and they are making missteps,” says Lana Wylie, a political scientist at McMaster University. "They’re making rookie mistakes, though they’re not a rookie government any more.”

Mind you, standing up to an angry tyrant such as Prince Mohammed bin Salman is popular at home. Odds are good that polls will show most Canadians support Mr. Trudeau’s refusal to back down in the face of Saudi demands for an apology. If foreign policy is really domestic politics in disguise, then the Saudi affair may be politically savvy.

And then there is the card that could trump all others, for better or worse. Nothing – not offending the Indians, affronting the Chinese, enraging the Saudis or upsetting the environmentalists – matters more than successfully renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, which U.S. President Donald Trump is threatening to cancel.

If the government is spread thin elsewhere, that’s because so much attention and so many resources have been dedicated to saving NAFTA. Success on this file matters more than all other issues combined.

“If the government secures a good deal with NAFTA, then all will be forgiven,” predicts Jason Zorbas, who teaches Canadian foreign policy at University of Saskatchewan. But failure, or a renewed deal in which Canada is forced to sacrifice key interests, such as a dispute resolution mechanism, would be disastrous. We may know the outcome in a matter of weeks.

On good days, Canadian governments find a niche role for a middle power with good intentions but a tight purse. Fighting apartheid in South Africa under Brian Mulroney. Helping establish the International Criminal Court and the landmines treaty under former prime minister Jean Chrétien. Stephen Harper’s maternal health initiative.

On bad days, Canadian foreign policy is an unwholesome mix of high-minded declarations, inadequate commitment and confusion. The Trudeau government has experienced more than its share of bad days. It’s time to post some wins.

They're a bunch of losers, in other words, and they control our fate.
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Canada is diplomatically isolated in Saudi spat

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