Sale must go on: Trudeau sticks to $12bn arms deal with Saudis despite Khashoggi killing

Sale must go on: Trudeau sticks to $12bn arms deal with Saudis despite Khashoggi killing
Canada’s PM says it is “very difficult” to drop the US$12 billion (Can$15 billion) deal on arms sales to Riyadh. It comes despite mounting allegations that the killing of the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was “pre-planned.”

The murder of the self-exiled writer which Turkey says was planned beforehand “is something that is extremely preoccupying to Canadians, to Canada and to many of our allies around the world” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged. However, even on the heels of the latest tough accusations from Ankara, the North American country is not mulling to halt arms deliveries to the Saudi Kingdom.

The contract signed by the previous government, by Stephen Harper, makes it very difficult to suspend or leave that contract

Should Canada terminate the deal, massive penalties will follow immediately, taking a toll on taxpayers. It is estimated that Ottawa would lose around US$800 million (Can$1 billion).

“I do not want to leave Canadians holding a billion-dollar bill because we are trying to move forward on doing the right thing,” the liberal premier added without elaborating on what “the right thing” would look like.

Less than two weeks ago, he also signaled that Canadian-Saudi arms trade will go on as usual, despite again voicing “concerns” about Khashoggi’s fate.

According to documents obtained by CBC News in September, Saudi Arabian armed forces are to take delivery of 742 Canadian-built LAV-6 light armored vehicles. The same outlet revealed in March that hundreds of the LAV-6s will be furnished with heavy assault and anti-tank weapons systems. 

Public outcry over the whereabout of prominent Saudi Arabia critic Khashoggi has been mounting since his mysterious disappearance in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. After having initially claimed that the man left the diplomatic mission, Riyadh later caved in and admitted that Khashoggi was killed inside the compound.

During a speech on Tuesday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there was strong evidence that the death “was not a momentary result of something that erupted on sight but rather the result of a planned operation.” 

Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s largest consumers of weapons from Westerns powers. However, as chilling new details on Khashoggi’s murder emerge, those countries appear to be divided as to whether beefing up the Saudi war machine is a justifiable choice now.

Germany, for instance, imposed a blanket ban on weapons deliveries, with Chancellor Angela Merkel noting “the urgent need for clarification of exactly what happened” in the Saudi Consulate. German ally France, however, is keeping silent.

However, Spain, which has been playing a game of “back and forth” on arms deliveries to Riyadh, has taken Canada’s view on the matter. Though expressing his “dismay” on the killing of the prominent writer, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez stated that sales of precision bombs to the Gulf Kingdom should not be affected. Again, protecting jobs was cited as an excuse to go ahead with the sales.

US President Donald Trump, who struck a giant $450-billion arms deal with the Saudi monarchs, is also not keen on losing big here. Calling the Saudis’ handling of the Khashoggi case “a total fiasco from day one,” he still said that there are other ways to “punish” Riyadh.

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