New developments in the fight against sordid Saudi arms deal

laviiiup-980x428Our April 27th blog post highlighted our Open letter to the Prime Minister calling on him to rescind forthwith the export permits approved by Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion for the “unethical and immoral” Saudi arms deal. Since then, we have seen more damning evidence of Saudi repression of the Shia minority at home, as well as newly declassified evidence of the Saudi role in the September 11th attacks.

Most recently, we have learned of the last minute “postponement” by Saudi Arabia of their unseemly and untimely plans for a huge “cultural festival” in Ottawa on May 18-21st. Billed as a showcase for Saudi dancing, cuisine, calligraphy, and Saudi-Canadian relations, one can be sure that seminars on the brutal Saudi justice system (with its ghastly array of beheadings, floggings, and stonings) would not have been on the agenda of this free public event.

‘Logistical’ concerns have derailed the four-day festival planned for this week – says Saudi Embassy in Ottawa

We must contrast that bit of good news with the bombshell in Wednesday’s Globe and Mail in the form of a commentary by veteran Middle East expert and retired Canadian diplomat Michael Bell: “Canada’s new strategy pays off with a seat at the Syria table”.  However able a commentator Bell may be, his argument that we need to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia in order to have a seat at the Syrian peace talks is so misguided as to take one’s breath away.

Canada has played a valuable role in past negotiations precisely because we were an honest broker, able to see things from all sides, not a “yes man” for our heavyweight allies.

What possible use are we at the Syrian peace talks if we cannot propose anything that Saudi Arabia might dislike? –  asks RI President Peggy Mason

We do not have the “hard power” leverage of the United States, Russia, the UK, and France—all permanent members of the UN Security and all major arms dealers—and that is precisely our “soft power” value in proposing solutions that have the greatest chance of working for everyone.

It is also absurd to suggest that sales of Canadian LAVs to Saudi Arabia are necessary to shore up the House of Saud. Rather than yet another sell-out for Saudi cash, what is actually needed is a country with the courage to support President Obama’s none-too-subtle message in his recent Atlantic Magazine interview that the only real way forward for the Kingdom is if it starts to take reforms more seriously at home and co-existence with Iran to heart in the region.

Canada has nothing to offer at the negotiating table as an echo of the big boys who argue that human rights matter when they are violated by the other side’s allies but are irrelevant when grossly violated by our own.

For a reminder of the war crimes in Yemen of which Saudi Arabia stands accused, see: Experts conclude Saudi-led coalition conducted widespread airstrikes against civilian targets in violation of international law.

For a chilling account by Robert Kennedy Jr. of the long history of American interventions in the Middle East, see: Why the Arabs don’t want us in Syria: They don’t hate our freedoms. They hate that we’ve betrayed our ideals in their own countries – for oil. (, 3/1/2016).

For the latest on Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion’s upcoming trip to Saudi Arabia, see: Dion to raise human rights concerns during visit to Saudi Arabia (Steven Chase, Globe and Mail, 18 May 2016).

Photo credit: General Dynamics Land Systems

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8 Responses to “New developments in the fight against sordid Saudi arms deal”

  1. Mark CollinsMay 23, 2016 at 1:30 pm #

    More reason to be dubious about Saudi:

    “Those Jolly Jihadi Saudis Spreading Wahhabism in Kosovo (and Bosnia)”


  2. S. StaintonMay 19, 2016 at 12:36 pm #

    I’m in total agreement with the ugliness & immorality of our sale of arms to SUNNI Saudi to help them slaughter SHIA as seen in Yemen. The obfuscation & redacting around info by Mr. Dion is scary.

    Violence is apparently alright as Mr. Trudeau in his anger strongly elbowed a member of Parliament out of the way; that it was a woman makes that act doubly wrong.
    Thus , a bit of a fetch, he treats a women as would Saudi Arabia.
    I wonder today what the women in his caucus think tthis morning as they have been warned about reality in his actions.

    There is NO EXCUSE for strongly elbowing a woman & no excuse for selling slaughter vehicles to a new Saudi king. Violence at any level is to be condemned.
    SHIA families watch out; Men you do not have permission to angrily hit a partner just because our P.M. thinks family violence is alright whether that family be Muslim over there, our homes, or Parliament.

  3. EricMay 18, 2016 at 9:42 pm #

    I appreciate the fact that there are people who can express my thoughts so clearly. I think this article is worth sending to Justin, if only he would have time to actually think about it; I understand and appreciate the response by Angus Cunningham; and Jocelyn’s response is absolutely ‘on the money.’ I am deeply grateful for the Rideau Institute, for Peggy Mason’s tireless and excellent work for international peace, and for these Ceasefire updates.

  4. There are many ways to interpret the Saudi postponement of their cultural festival, not just cynical ones. I was against the Saudi LAV deal the instant I heard of it on the ground that the less weapons present at the scene of a conflict the less likely is violence to escalate. But remember that weapons do have a peace-building purpose in holding up an aggressor IF the trigger of the hold-up weapon is under the control of a person we know to be sane, unthreatened her/himself, trained only to use the weapon as a last resort, and not under the influence of some psycho-active drug. Of course, we are we, and others not included in our ‘we’, are they, so let’s try to use the word ‘they’ less often. Isn’t that why Canada was born, why Canadians have fought aggressors all over the world, and why Mr. Dion is today attempting to update our foreign policy in conversation with other foreign policy-makers?

    I wish he had made a clean breast of the fact that it was the new Liberal Government who actually approved 70% of the LAV deal negotiated by American branch plant owner General Dynamics, but at least we, through Mr. Dion and Mr. Trudeau, have retained leverage through the 30% not yet approved.

  5. Jocelyn ChouinardMay 18, 2016 at 7:02 pm #

    It is far beyond the time to extract All corrupt politicians and replace them with honest and wise rulers who work for their citizens rather than serving the highest scoundrel bidder be that bidder corporate or politician.
    Just look at the disgraceful mess that all of these self-serving fools have allowed to destroy our only home, this beautiful and magnificent world, for the love of dirty $$$$$$! Where do they think that they and especially their children will live?


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