Saudi Arabia expelled the Canadian ambassador on Monday and froze “all new business” with Ottawa over its criticism of the ultraconservative kingdom’s arrest of women’s rights activists — yet another warning to the West reflecting Riyadh’s newly assertive foreign policy.
The sudden and unexpected dispute bore the hallmarks of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s 32-year-old future leader, whose recent foreign policy exploits include the war in Yemen, the boycott of Qatar and Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise resignation broadcast during a visit to the kingdom. Hariri later rescinded the resignation, widely believed to be orchestrated by Riyadh, and returned to Beirut.
Analysts say the dispute between Riyadh and Ottawa shows Saudi Arabia won’t accept any outside criticism and will continue flexing its muscles abroad, especially as the kingdom enjoys a closer relationship with President Donald Trump.
“This message is obviously not just being sent to Ottawa,” said Giorgio Cafiero, the CEO of Gulf State Analytics, a Washington-based risk consultancy. “It’s a message to countries across Europe and across the rest of the world that criticism of Saudi Arabia . has consequences.”