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Saudis Snub UN, Sending Signal to Obama


Saudi Arabia, frustrated with how things have been going in Middle East, is showing its displeasure by foregoing its seat on the UN Security Council. The FT:

Announcing the decision on Friday, Riyadh said the global body had failed to protect the Syrian people or to resolve the Palestinian issue.

“It is unfortunate that all the international efforts that have been exerted in recent years and in which Saudi Arabia actively took part did not result in achieving the reforms necessary to enable the Security Council to restore its role in serving peace and security worldwide,’’ the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“The method and work mechanism and the double standards in the Security Council prevent it from properly shouldering its responsibilities towards world peace.”

All the signs point to this being decided at the very top of the Saudi government pyramid. While the snub was broadly aimed at the international community as a whole, it would be a mistake to not see in this a growing Saudi rage mixed with horror at the Obama administration.

It remains unclear to us whether the Obama administration has for its part thought through the full consequences of a serious rift with the Saudis. It’s possible the administration thinks there is little they can actually do, and it’s also possible that they calculate that the costs of making the Saudis happy are not worth paying (getting tougher on Iran, distancing from the Muslim Brotherhood, and foregoing the ultimate dream of a democratic Arab Middle East).

There are not many signs of order and coherence in US Middle East policy at the moment, so there is at least the possibility that the White House hasn’t really thought through just what the Saudis could do that would make us unhappy. That would be a mistake. The Saudis have a lot of weight in Pakistan and could make things easier or harder for us there. They have a lot of influence particularly among the hard core Islamists and in the nuclear program. It’s worth thinking about what that could mean. Also, as US dependence on Middle East oil decreases, China looms larger as a customer for the Saudis, and there are a number of favors those countries could do for each other that would make life more complicated for American foreign policy.

The Saudis could move more aggressively to fund the kind of jihadis we don’t like in Syria and perhaps elsewhere; they could switch to a more aggressive price policy in OPEC; they could cut the legs out from under the Palestinian moderates on the West Bank; they could aggressively promote radical Salfism in Egypt to take advantage of the Muslim Brotherhood’s eclipse. With Saudi help, however quiet and in the background, Israel’s calculations about an attack on Iran could change, and a conflict could start that the White House might not be able to stay out of.

It’s hard to think of a more powerful diplomatic signal of rage and frustration that the Saudis could send. The White House needs to do one of two things: figure out how to get things on track with our oldest ally in the Middle East or figure out how to withstand serious Saudi efforts to undermine key US interests and goals.

Maybe the time has come for an alliance which (much more than the US-Israel alliance) has been the cornerstone of our Middle East policy since FDR was president, to break up. If that’s what the Obama administration really believes, it should move ahead. But if the Saudi alliance is still a valuable one, it would be a shame to throw it away because we weren’t paying attention.

[UNSC room, photograph by Patrick Gruban, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.]

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  • Pete

    Saudis could also announce that if Iran gets the bomb, they’ll buy a couple of ’em themselves.

    • USNK2

      Pete: The Saudis already have access to Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.

  • USNK2

    Via Meadia notes almost all of the consequences of what is indeed is a “…powerful diplomatic signal of rage and frustration…” by Saudi Arabia, now seconded in spirit by France.

    Saudi Arabia, and the GCC, influence on Egypt is as profound as their influence on Pakistan.

    I also disagree with VM’s view that the Saudis will do anything that further destabilizes the arc of Islam, or global oil markets.

    Plus, it is mostly USA and EU funding that supports both UNRWA, and Fatah’s Palestinian Authority in Judea and Samaria, who are “moderate” only in comparison to Hamas in Gaza.

    The United Nations Security Council is a failure. Name one war since the UNSC came into being that has actually ended, where the UNSC was involved.

    Just a long list of frozen conflicts with armistice lines.

    • Corlyss

      Not only can’t they end one, they openly perpetuate them with their stupid proportionality rules and their meddling refugee nonsense and their meddling human rights bloviating that prevent one side from prosecuting the war to a decisive conclusion. They worship at the altar or political solutions where often the best political solution is that one side’s capacity for war-making is utterly destroyed and the losers humiliated abjectly. That’s a little to “mean” for most of the striped-trousers crowd and their advisors.

  • AnnSaltzafrazz

    Fracking has got to be making them nervous too, not just in the US but internationally.

  • wigwag

    Here’s the problem; the Saudis understand what’s in American interests more than our Dimwit-in-Chief who currently commits stupid mistake after stupid mistake while sitting in the Oval Office.

    The Saudis are right; Obama is wrong. Appeasing Iran is an ameteurish mistake that will make the entire world far less safe. The Muslim Brotherhood (and its sister party in Turkey) don’t represent the solution, they represent the problem. Obama should be applauding every reverse the Brothers experience not lamenting them.

    Finally, only an imbecile would believe that we should be supporting “democracy” in the Middle East. Of course we shouldn’t be surprised that Obama thinks democracy on the Middle East is achievable. He’s the biggest imbecile to live in the White House in decades.

    • Corlyss

      We do support “democracy” in the Middle East. It’s in Israel. At least, we supported it be for Dear Leader got into office.

  • Peter

    From Honest Reporting’s daily email: Mordechai Kedarand Erik Voeten point out that sitting on the council would have

    A) forced the Saudis to take public positions on very sensitive issues, and

    B) drawn unwanted scrutiny to the kingdom’s woeful human rights record and support for Sunni terror.

    Seems a plausible explanation.

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