Monday, January 11, 2016

Canada ignores Saudi executions in favor of $15 billion military contract

Although Canada has strongly condemned the mass execution of 47 people by Saudi Arabia, the Liberal government has no intention of canceling a $15 billion contract to supply armored fighting vehicles to the kingdom.

Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion issued a statement condemning the mass execution on January 2nd and urged the Saudis to respect peaceful dissent and human rights. A prominent Shi'ite cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, was one of those executed. His execution sparked protests in many places and the Saudi embassy in Tehran was attacked and burned causing the Saudis to break off relations with Iran.
The contract for the armored vehicles is expected to create about 3,000 jobs for up to 14 years. Adam Barratt, director of communications for Dion said: "A private company is delivering the goods according to a signed contract with the government of Saudi Arabia. The government of Canada has no intention of cancelling that contract."Given the unwillingness of the Liberal government to cancel the sale of the vehicles to Saudi Arabia, Cesar Jaramillo of Project Ploughshares, an anti-war group that keeps track of arms sales, said:"Canada's condemnation of the most recent gross human-rights violations by the Saudi regime rings somewhat hollow against the backdrop of the $15-billion worth of Canadian military exports that this very regime is set to receive with Ottawa’s blessing."
Dion said in a statement on the official government website::“Canada opposes the death penalty and decries the execution of 47 individuals in Saudi Arabia on January 2, 2016...In the wake of these executions, we reiterate our call to the Government of Saudi Arabia to protect human rights, respect peaceful expressions of dissent and ensure fairness in judicial proceedings. Canada is particularly concerned that the execution of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr could further inflame sectarian tensions in the region. We urge Saudi Arabian authorities and local and regional leaders, including those in Iran, to work with all communities to defuse these tensions and promote reconciliation.”
Conservative MP Tony Clement, claimed the Harper government had conducted a review to ensure that the vehicles were being used to "fight the bad guys, fight terrorism or aggressive nations that Saudi Arabia was facing in the Middle East. It was specifically designed to make sure they weren’t using the equipment against their own people." An article in the Globe and Mail claims that Liberal policy in Saudi Arabia is the same as that of the Conservatives and the first rule of chess to protect the king —in this case, the Saudi king and his royal family.
The article points out that the armoured vehicles (LAVs) are not intended to be used by the regular Saudi armed forces but for the Saudi Arabian National Guard (SANG), which is tasked with internal security as well as protecting the royal family. The SANG already has LAVs they bought in the 1990s. Jacqueline Lapour, a research assistant at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, noted that these vehicles have been deployed in Shia areas to intimidate Shia protesters. In 2011 they were deployed during Shia protests in Bahrain.
While not disturbing the Harper government contract with the Saudis, the Liberals are making plans to expand their diplomatic relations with Iran. This could include reopening the Canadian embassy.Tony Clement, who is foreign affairs critics for the Conservatives called on the Liberals not to establish further relations with Iran saying: "Iran continues to be a dangerous state sponsor of terrorist groups around the world. When Iran moves away from its terrorist activities, Canada should then act to restore relations."

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