As tensions between Saudi Arabia and Canada continue to soar after the Canadian Foreign Ministry dared to condemn the kingdom's imprisonment of dissidents and human rights activists, a verified Twitter account connected to the Saudi government tweeted a graphic on Monday that appeared to threaten Toronto with a 9/11-style attack.
"With hundreds of billions in arms deals from the U.S. and U.K., the Saudi regime is being given carte blanche to threaten anyone and everyone with violence." —Ben Norton
The image—which was deleted after it sparked widespread outrage—showed an Air Canada jet flying in the direction of the 1800-foot CN Tower, invoking memories of the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center that killed thousands, including 26 Canadians.
Overlaying the image was the quote, "He who interferes with what doesn't concern him finds what doesn't please him."
After deleting the initial tweet and replacing it with a graphic without the Canadian jet, the Saudi account apologized for posting the "inappropriate" image and implausibly claimed that the message behind the graphic—which was clear as day to most observers—was misinterpreted.
"The U.S. must be clear in condemning repression, especially when done by governments that receive our support."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders
The Saudi account insisted that the Canadian jet flying toward CN Tower was supposed to represent Riyadh's expulsion of the Canadian ambassador, who was kicked out following Canada's criticism of Saudi Arabia's notoriously appalling human rights record. Saudi Arabia's Media Ministry later shut down the infographic account and said it is investigating the matter.
Journalists and other commentators from Canada and around the world were wholly unimpressed by Saudi Arabia's explanation and apology.
Highlighting the well-known fact that 15 of the 19 September 11th hijackers were Saudi citizens, German political scientist Marcel Dirsus offered the Saudi government some free PR advice: "If you represent a kingdom which brought forth the majority of 9/11 attackers, don't use a plane flying into a tower in North America when you have a disagreement with Canada. It doesn't help."
Some free PR advice for Saudis: Your country is known for financing Muslim extremists. If you represent a kingdom which brought forth the majority of 9/11 attackers, don't use a plane flying into a tower in North America when you have a disagreement with Canada. It doesn't help. pic.twitter.com/mJaCCOoRTj
— Marcel Dirsus (@marceldirsus) August 6, 2018
The Saudi-connected Twitter account's apparent threat against Canada comes amid an intensifying conflict between the two nations over the kingdom's continued imprisonment of activists who speak out against its ongoing human rights violations—many of which are financed by Western nations, including Canada and the United States.
Ben Norton, a reporter and producer with The Real News, argued that the Saudis' increasingly belligerent behavior stems from the fact that the U.S. and the U.K. have continued to funnel weaponry into the kingdom even as it commits atrocities at home and in Yemen.
"With hundreds of billions in arms deals from the U.S. and U.K., with Trump sword-dancing with Saudi royals, and with the corporate media fawning over dictator Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi regime is being given carte blanche to threaten anyone and everyone with violence," Norton argued.
With hundreds of billions in arms deals from the US and UK, with Trump sword-dancing with Saudi royals, and with the corporate media fawning over dictator Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi regime is being given carte blanche to threaten anyone and everyone with violence.
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) August 6, 2018
In a statement that came 24-hours after the spat between Canada and Saudi Arabia began, the Trump administration made clear that it has no intention of standing behind Canada's criticism of Saudi crimes.
"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," a State Department official wrote in an email to the Huffington Post.
Trump—who has embraced the Saudis with even more enthusiasm than previous American presidents—has been completely silent on the conflict.
After Canada refused to back down from its criticism of Saudi human rights violations, the kingdom announced that it is freezing all new trade with Canada and suspending scholarships of the approximately 16,000 Saudi students currently studying at Canadian schools.
Responding to the rising tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday called the Saudi government's behavior "outrageous" and highlighted the necessity of speaking out about the human rights violations of nations that receive political and military backing from the West.
"The U.S. must be clear in condemning repression, especially when done by governments that receive our support," Sanders concluded.
This is an outrageous move. It's entirely legitimate for democratic governments to highlight human rights issues with undemocratic governments. We must continue to do so. The US must be clear in condemning repression, especially when done by governments that receive our support. https://t.co/M0sLs2iyGg
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) August 6, 2018