Saudi slap at Canada shows Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s assertiveness

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In less than a year, Saudi Arabia has curbed ties with two members of the Group of Seven nations as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman implements an increasingly assertive foreign policy.
Saudi Arabia suspended diplomatic ties and new trade dealings with Canada on Sunday in response to Canada’s call for the release of women’s rights activists. In November, the kingdom recalled its ambassador to Germany and cut back commercial ties with some German companies after the then-foreign minister suggested the kingdom had orchestrated the surprise resignation of Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, a charge it denies.
Under Prince Mohammed, King Salman’s son and the power behind the throne, Saudi Arabia has reacted more aggressively against countries that it perceives as intervening in its internal affairs. The kingdom has also led a four-country coalition that severed ties with neighboring Qatar for more than a year.
The move against Canada “seems intended to convey that Saudi Arabia’s government will not yield to external pressure on what it views as national security issues, including how the government decides to limit the freedom of activists who have disagreed with the government in the past,” said Emily Hawthorne, Middle East and North Africa analyst at Texas-based advisory firm Stratfor Enterprises LLC.The Canadian dollar declined as much as 0.4 percent, and was trading little changed at 1.3003 per U.S. dollar as of 1:15 p.m. In Toronto. The Tadawul All Share Index fell 0.2 percent at the close in Riyadh, posting its fifth straight session of decline.
“I wouldn’t classify this as an overly aggressive move, as it’s largely symbolic, but I think it will definitely stoke uncertainty for investors, until we can gauge how long this chill will last,” Hawthorne said.The Saudi Foreign Ministry cited remarks last week by Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and the Canadian embassy in Riyadh criticizing the arrests of women’s rights activists including Samar Badawi. Her brother Raif Badawi, a blogger who was critical of the government, was already in a Saudi jail.
Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador to Ottawa and ordered the Canadian envoy to Riyadh to leave within 24 hours, according to a Foreign Ministry statement. Canada is “seeking greater clarity” about the matter, a spokeswoman for Freelandsaid.SNC-Lavalin Group Inc., Canada’s biggest engineering and construction company, is seeing “no immediate impact” to its operations in Saudi Arabia, according to Daniela Pizzuto, a spokeswoman.“We trust that this situation will be resolved at the earliest opportunity,” Pizzuto said in an e-mail message Monday. “We greatly value the relationships that have been built and our contributions to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”Saudi foreign policy began to change when King Salman succeeded his late brother Abdullah in 2015, and positioned his son, known as MBS, as the most powerful prince in the kingdom.