Canada Is Right to Criticize Saudi Human-Rights Abuses

In 2014, Saudi Arabia sentenced the liberal blogger Raif Badawi to 1,000 lashes and ten years in prison for “insulting Islam”—that is, for criticizing the power and influence of the country’s clergy. Badawi has thus far received 50 lashes but remains in prison. Last week, Saudi police arrested his sister and fellow human-rights activist Samar, prompting the Canadian foreign minister, and the foreign ministry itself, to send tweets calling for her release. In response, Riyadh suspended diplomatic relations, instructed Saudis in Canada to return home, and threatened economic sanctions. Elliott Abrams, noting that the tweets in question are neither “harsh” nor “shocking,” comments:

The Raif Badawi case has long been a matter of international concern and comment. [Previous American statements on the matter were] surely tougher than the Canadian comments. Moreover, the United States had no actual link to the case whereas Badawi’s wife and three children are now Canadian citizens. . . .

The Saudi position amounts to this: no government may comment on anything that happens in the kingdom. Any such comment is a violation of Saudi sovereignty. . . That’s an untenable position in 2018. Remember Ronald Reagan calling the Soviet Union “totalitarian darkness” and an “evil empire?” Yet the Soviets did little more than protest verbally, while relations continued normally. . . .

I suppose the Saudis are sending a message that such criticism will come at a high cost, or at least at a high cost unless you’re the United States. One can well imagine that numerous other countries will in fact be scared off, not wanting to pay the price the Canadians will. . . .

I remain supportive of the social and economic reform efforts associated with [Saudi Arabia’s] Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and wish him every success in them. They are critical to the country’s future. I can understand, even if I cannot always support, his efforts to control every aspect of the pace of change lest his experiment with modernizing so many parts of Saudi life evoke so much internal opposition that it fails. But there’s no way to defend what the Saudis have done here. Their foreign ministry should have issued a statement saying the Canadians should butt out, they have their facts wrong, we resent it, and so on, and had their ambassador angrily say the same to the foreign minister—and left it at that. What they have done is an unforced error.

And while I’m at it, hats off to the Canadians for their concern about the family of a Canadian citizen and about human rights around the world.

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Read more at Pressure Points

More about: Canada, Human Rights, Mohammad bin Salman, Politics & Current Affairs, Ronald Reagan, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy