Riyadh’s frustration over the UN Security Council inability to act effectively cannot be more obvious. A week ago Saudi Arabia made it perfectly clear that it would not join the Security Council. With the ongoing killings in Syria and the lack of a serious peace process, Saudi Arabia no longer sees the international community capable of fulfilling its duties in the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, Riyadh came to the painful realization that the Security Council is not only ineffective but its paralysis only hurts Arab cause.
Today, a clear majority among the Arabs and non-Arabs of the Middle East see American influence on the wane. Since Obama assumed presidency, there has been a growing feeling among key Arab states that this administration has not only failed to interfere positively in the region but also proved to be unreliable. American allies in the region feel that Obama has turned his back on them.
At the heart of the Saudi decision is a determination to protect its national security instead of wasting its time and energy in a world body whose members are engaged in promoting their own interests especially when this region is undergoing turmoil. By refusing to take its seat in the Security Council, Riyadh has sent an explicit message to the United States rather than the United Nations.
Over the past two years, Washington has been dealing with various regional issues in the Middle East in a way that only hurts the regional peace. The American concessions to the Iranian-led camp pushed key Arab countries to question whether Washington has taken them for granted. Obama has been insensitive to the interests of his key allies in the region. Some American circles are of the opinion that Arab moderate countries such as Jordan and the GCC states have no option but to maintain cordial relationship with Washington. Hence, Washington can afford to go for rapprochement with Tehran at the expense of the Arabs’ interests without having to worry about its relationship with them.
A month ago, the UN General Assembly discussed how to dismantle Syria’s stockpile of chemical weapons. A draft resolution on this issue was circulated among the five permanent members of the Security Council. While the Saudis sought action on Syria, Russia used veto to give Assad respite. Worse, Washington gave in to Russia. Perhaps that was the tipping point as the Saudis realized that the Security Council has become dysfunctional.
It is about time that Riyadh realizes that Washington has slowly but surely shifted its attention away from the Middle East to the Pacific. For America to shift its resources away from the Middle East, some American strategists make the case for the need to reach an understanding with the likes of Russia and Iran. This in part explains the shift of the American policy on the Syrian crisis.
Of course, it is not that Saudi Arabia is not aware of these changes. Yet, the Kingdom should also consider that alliance with America may not be as useful as in the past. In other words, I believe that Washington is looking to reach grand deals even at the expense of traditional long time allies in the region. To be sure, Israeli is not included. It is just unthinkable that Washington — for internal political considerations — would turn its back to Israel in years to come.
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While it is not yet clear what kind of foreign policy Riyadh is developing, the American administration is in disbelief. Despite having thought that America’s Arab allies cannot act independently, Washington has yet to design a plausible way to mollify the Saudi concerns. Perhaps President Obama will soon realize that his country’s lack of leadership will not continue without a price. Long time allies — the case of Saudi rejection to take a seat in the Security Council — have been sending a message directed at Obama’s leadership. Contrary to some premature readings of the Saudi move, America perhaps now realizes that without assuring its allies in the region, the Saudi step may pave the way for a new orientation in Riyadh’s foreign policy that would only complicate American situation in the region.