Just when you thought we could close out a day with only a few totally insane things happening, we discover that a Saudi Arabia state media Twitter account sent (and then deleted) a message that seemed to threaten a 9/11 type event on Toronto.
The photo, which was part of the ongoing feud between Canada and Saudi Arabia over the latter’s imprisonment of activists, appeared to show an Air Canada plane headed towards the Toronto skyline. Pretty bold for a country that was home to 15 of the 19 September 11th hijackers.
The tweet was soon deleted by the account, which was run by Saudi government media. The account put the post back up, with the threatening language intact, minus the photoshopped plane. Then the KGA Infographics account tweeted an apology, claiming that the plane was meant to represent the Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia returning home, after being expelled last week. Now, the entire account has been deleted.
This whole saga began last week, when Canada’s official foreign policy account tweeted that they were “gravely concerned” about a surge in arrests of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia didn’t take this very well, to say the least. The tweet led to a series of escalations that ended in Saudi expelling the Canadian ambassador, freezing trade and investment with Canada, bringing home Saudi students from Canada, and, ironically, ending flights from Saudi Arabia to Toronto.
It’s likely that whoever uploaded this photo was a low level media worker with no actual impact on Saudi policy. Maybe it’s even true that they didn’t understand the glaring implications of the image. But for a country that has never faced real consequences for their role in terrorism, and who more than anyone are the direct cause of the 9/11 attacks, it’s probably best to avoid images of airplanes and skylines altogether.
The fact that this all started with a tweet about Saudi human rights abuses demonstrates the absurdity of the “reformed” Saudi Arabia narrative that has been circulated aggressively in the media. It’s unlikely that anyone in US government will respond on an official level about this—they haven’t yet. Saudi Arabia is a convenient ally of ours, and we don’t seem to care how egregious their human rights violations are as long as our relationship keeps the oil and money flowing. Why would we jeopardize our closest international friendship over something a silly as a threatened terrorist attack?