Jealous and Rogue Saudi Arabia

The Saudi Arabian Foreign Ministry has announced that it will not take up a coveted seat at the United Nations Security Council, though the UN Secretary General is still awaiting official confirmation. Israel may benefit from Saudi Arabia’s rejection of a two year seat on the United Nations Security Council. In international diplomacy change is made from within and not by refusing to participate. Those that refuse to participate are rogue. If Saudi Arabia had taken up the seat then it would have been able to influence diplomatically those issues that have caused it to reject the seat. By refusing the seat Saudi Arabia will not have a voice. It is a petulant and ineffective stunt that will undermine its ability to diplomatically affect decisions that it cares about. Saudi Arabia is not only rogue but is also jealous. Saudi Arabia is jealous that the United States is favoring issues against Saudi’s interests. The writing was on the wall of Saudi Arabia being jealous and rogue when two weeks ago Foreign Minister Prince Saud al Faisal declined to deliver Saudi Arabia’s speech to the annual opening of United Nations General Assembly.

At the top of the list of Saudi discontent is the ruckus being made over Iranian President Hasan Rouhani because Shia Iran is Sunni Saudi Arabia’s bitter rival for influence in the region. Since Iran fell out with the United States in 1979 Saudi Arabia has asserted primacy in the region. It has purchased a diplomatic shield from its patron the United States and military and nuclear cover from its rentier-client-Pakistan. Washington’s discarding of Pakistan and rapprochement with Iran has antagonized Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia also feels its influence waning as the US is becoming energy independent on the strength of the vast gas reserves it has tapped domestically. Also a recent Pew Research study on global attitudes showed Saudi Arabia’s image faltering among Middle East Neighbors, particularly in Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey.

It’s not to say the Saudi Arabian criticisms about the Security Council are without merit. Saudi Arabia is embittered with the Council and called it faulting the Palestinian cause without a just and lasting solution for 65 years, for not applying any deterrent sanctions against the Damascus regime for the killing and burning of the Syrian people and the inability to check the nuclear programs of all countries in the region inferring Iran. However by refusing the United Nations Security Council Seat Saudi Arabia may have shot itself in the foot. Saudi Arabia was elected to take the seat for which its diplomats had campaigned for three years. It was the first time Saudi Arabia ever had sought a seat and it is the first time that any nation has refused a seat. The Saudis are the only member of the G20 who’ve never been on the security council. In refusing the seat the Saudi’s made a dramatic diplomatic statement however it will soon be forgotten as the Council continues its work or lack thereof, without Saudi participation.

Saudi Arabia will not have a voice in the UN Security Council. The United Nations and the United States will not make dramatic changes to appease Saudi Arabia and to beg it to take up the seat. This leaves Saudi Arabia with two options to achieve the objectives listed in its objection to the United Nations. One is to continue its traditional modus operandi of working behind closed doors, using its oil, its wealth and its close relationship with the United States to influence regional and international powers. This is unlikely as its influence is waning. The other option may well prevail as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has openly advised that Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states should act in the region if Washington does not. Initially this will be with regards to Syria, maybe by increasing military support for the rebels. Toward Iran he has called for Gulf states to leverage economic and political and other power to thwart a potential Western-Iranian alliance or backdoor deals made against the Gulf. Such action will be rogue to the current Resolutions of the United Nations supported and in part led by the United States. Such rogue action however will suit Israel’s interests. Everyone knows that the United Nations is often slow in taking action and when it does it is often too little and too late. Should Saudi Arabia act in a jealous and rogue fashion then the Syrian and Iranian issues may well be resolved and solved in a speedy, effectual and proficient manner, in Israel’s favor.

Dr. Glen Segell, FRGS, is Researcher at The Institute for National Security Studies Tel Aviv, Lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and Senior Researcher for the Ariel Research Center for Defense and Communication.

About the Author
Dr Glen Segell is Fellow at the Ezri Center for Iran & Persian Gulf Studies, University of Haifa.