Saudi Arabia is lashing out at Canada after Canada tweeted its support for human rights … and the Trump administration says it doesn’t want to take sides. Which, in this case, boils down to taking Saudi Arabia’s side.
Canada had the nerve to call on Saudi Arabia to release two human rights activists who are currently political prisoners. Saudi Arabia’s response to that was to eject Canada’s ambassador, withdraw its own ambassador from Canada, cancel future investments in Canada, suspend flights to Canada, and pull out thousands of students studying in Canada on government scholarships. So clearly Saudi Arabia is willing to go to the mat for its right to imprison human rights activists, while Canada is sticking to its stance that imprisoning human rights activists is bad. The Trump administration, on the other hand …
“We are aware of Government of Saudi Arabia’s statement recalling the Saudi ambassador to Canada and expelling Canada’s ambassador,” a State Department official wrote in an email Monday afternoon. “Canada and Saudi Arabia are both close allies of the United States. I refer you to the Canadian and Saudi Ministries of Foreign Affairs for further information.”
Saudi Arabia is not, in fact, a treaty ally of the U.S. ― though Canada, a member of NATO, is.
According to Amnesty International, “It is now time for other governments to join Canada in increasing the pressure on Saudi Arabia to release all prisoners of conscience immediately and unconditionally, and end the crackdown on freedom of expression in the country.” That is not the Trump Way, and by refusing to condemn the imprisonment of activists—the State Department has “asked the Government of Saudi Arabia for additional information on the detention of several activists”—the administration is letting autocratic governments around the world know that as long as they suck up to Trump enough, he won’t hold them accountable in even the most tepid ways.