The spat between Saudi Arabia and Canada seemed, at first, an inexplicable rift. Saudi behaviour, in expelling the Canadian ambassador after a Canadian diplomatic Twitter account judiciously criticised the kingdom’s record on human rights, is widely perceived to be unjustified, unreasonable and nonsensical. But those adjectives are less uncommon in diplomacy these days than one might expect and hope. Continue reading
Foreign policy undertaken unilaterally is disdained and feared. It meets vast, instinctive criticism. Action, especially military action, which is seen to be arbitrary elicits the same response. When democratic states seek to act on the international stage, they desire not only to succeed in their chosen course of action, but also to be seen to be acting justly, within limits, and without caprice. Continue reading
On Syria, the confused state of American policy persists.
This month, the president, Donald Trump, authorised strikes, in tandem with Britain and France, to punish the regime of Bashar al-Assad for its use of chemical weapons in Douma, eastern Ghouta. That might be taken to suggest that the United States and allies were prepared to act – to restrain brutality, to support stability, and to prevent the eruption of general chaos. Continue reading
Today, the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has arrived in Britain, beginning a three-day visit. This British sojourn is part of a global tour which has taken bin Salman to Egypt and which will include a visit to the United States. Continue reading
The biggest of the stories swirling about Donald Trump this week concerns, not a tweet (as is ordinary), but a book.
The president is famously unlettered, professing little time for reading; and others attest that Trump has little interest in any printed matter that does not contain his photograph. Continue reading
The kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s conservatism is well-known. It is religious, social, and political. Saudi Arabia is a monarchy whose legitimacy is supported by clerical authority. Many outsiders, particularly Westerners, assume from this that the country is entirely retrograde, that reform of its institutions, laws and society may never come. Continue reading
Last Saturday, three events in Saudi Arabia caught the attention of the world.
The first was the remarkable news that the kingdom had intercepted and neutralised a missile over Riyadh. This was quickly determined to have been launched from Yemen, which was swiftly blockaded, with its sea, land and air ports abruptly closed. Continue reading