On August 3, members of Canada’s Foreign Ministry sent tweets calling for the release of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia did not respond so much as retaliate, claiming its sovereignty was threatened by criticism of its domestic security policy. While some have described the incident as a ‘diplomatic spat,’ it is, in fact, an opportunity by Saudi Arabia’s crown prince Mohammed bin Salman to assert his authority—specifically, his autocratic governance style and refusal to be criticized by anyone. Having a shoddy human rights record is, at best, a little embarrassing, and if there is anything an ambitious, young tyrant will not stand for, it is being embarrassed, on social media, no less.
Over at Aljazeera, whose television broadcasting and news website have been blocked since the start of the Saudi-led Qatar blockade last year, several analysts argued that the Saudi response to the Canadian tweets was an attempted muscle flexing:
It’s pretty clear that [Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] is using Canada to send a message to the rest of the world that if you want to trade with Saudi Arabia, then you need to shut up on human rights,” said Nader Hashemi, director of the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies.
Hashemi said the root cause of the diplomatic crisis with Canada is bin Salman himself.
The crown prince, commonly referred to as MBS, “is drunk on power and arrogant and suffers from a deep dose of youthful naivete and believes that he has [US President] Donald Trump in his back pocket and can do whatever he wants”, Hashemi told Al Jazeera.
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