SPEAKING FREELY The Saudi Arabian conundrum
By Mervyn Hosein
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Saudi Arabia's rejection of a Security Council seat on October 23 really is a brilliant piece of diplomatic subterfuge. In one fell swoop that country has censured its allies, earned approbation from leaders of banana republics, evoked appropriate noises of dismay from the less-knowledgeable masses and whitewashed itself of all previous and future sins.
No country "gets elected" to anything without having accepted nomination. The UN is largely a waste of time and money for the impotent and enslaved Fourth World countries that make up the vast majority of it 193 weak General (dis)Assembly members.
It is a stomping ground for the "Big Five" permanent elephants
with the UK and France as handmaidens of the sole controller, the US, and the rest of the First World countries more or less faithfully follow dictation like ardent poodles. They know full well that stepping out of line will cost much more than mere National Security Agency communications intercepts.
For the irrelevant countries, getting a chance to secure a two-year, non-permanent, photo-op seat on the "'head table" is a prized privilege requiring dexterous combinations of behind the scenes groveling and back-stabbing in the effort. For Saudi Arabia, to secure 176 of the 193 votes in that house was no mean feat of two-year lobbying. Despite the season, it is unlikely this was a gift dropped unannounced from heaven.
That the UN is "riddled with double standards and had failed in the Middle East", as the Saudi foreign ministry said in a statement published by the state news agency SPA, is absolutely true and cannot be faulted. The argument that this was a diplomatic rebuff in criticism of the UN's failure to solve "the nearly three-year civil was in Syria and the protracted Palestinian-Israeli conflict" and to "turn the Middle East into a region free from weapons of mass destruction" was brilliant in its easily palatable logic and truth.
Less well advertised and kept largely unprintable by the enslaved is the role that that the rulers of this country have played in bringing about today's unstoppable sectarian schism and by extension, ensuring that no Middle Eastern or Muslim country will ever again be able to stand on its own two feet.
Pakistan, the only other known regional nuclear power apart from Israel has been fighting this proxy war for decades. The historical US-Saudi funding of the country's misery is now well documented.
The extermination of everything that does not fit into the Salafist mold now is bordering on genocide. Syria and Iran, "implacable enemies" of the House of Saud, remain the only other countries not yet totally bought or battered into submission.
Outside Israel and interestingly of no cause for world concern, Saudi Arabia is the largest possessor of US-supplied weaponry, with the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announcing on October 11 the impending supply to that country of a further $6.8 billion worth of "various munitions and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support". Abu Dhabi is also receiving US$4.2 billion.
The obvious question: for what do they need these "weapons of mass destruction?" While every other Middle Eastern country has occasionally fought Israel but generally remain in perpetual attritional warfare with each other, Saudi Arabia despite its vast armory has never fought.
The only country the Saudis ever "invaded" and temporarily vanquished was neighboring Bahrain where they went to prop up another Sunni despot subjugating his essentially Shi'ite countrymen. With the well-planned and aided self-destruction going on in the Middle East, this country, its Gulf acolytes and Israel could conceivably remain in total political, religious, economic and militaristic control of the entire region. Unless someone throws a spanner in the works.
There are two very probable scenarios for the seat rejection. An interesting article by David Ignatius in the Washington Post, "The US-Saudi crack up reaches a dramatic tipping point", argued, "when the US is exploring new policy initiatives, such as working with the Russians on dismantling chemical weapons in Syria and negotiating a possible nuclear deal with Iran. Those US policy initiatives are sound, in the view of many analysts, but they worry the Saudis and others."
The author cites the Wall Street Journal, which claims that Prince Bandar "Bush" bin Sultan, a total hawk and recently brought back into favor as Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief, describes this as "a message for the US not the UN". The current rejection has probably even more strongly "reinforced US frustration that Riyadh is an ungrateful and petulant ally".
Since Israel and Saudi Arabia want both Syria and Iran crushed, these countries will quietly pressure the US to continue its protection of the Riyadh monarchy. Since there is a symbiotic relationship between them, this is likely to be the extent of the public rebuke. Given the US's control of the UN and its unfettered ability to re-write all internationally accepted laws and conventions, it is likely that Saudi pique is only a small part of the reason.
There is another, equally plausible but less obvious scenario. What would have happened if Saudi Arabia had taken up its two-year stint in the 15-seat Security Council? Barring the Russians, who have, to their credit, so far relatively protected Syria and Iran from the fate of Iraq and Afghanistan, and the shrewd Chinese, who remain inscrutably silent, none of the other non-permanent Security Council members is likely to strongly object to the continued US-Israeli spearheaded attempt to eliminate the only two remaining players in the Middle Eastern arena.
Syria and Iran have long been the "implacable enemy" for the Saudis, and Israel considers them an "existential threat". Two years is a long time. With its monopoly on religious leadership and as the flag bearer of much of the rest of the ummah (community) where would Saudi Arabia stand when publicly asked to approve further crippling sanctions or direct attacks on fellow Muslim states?
Just as important, what would be the Saudi stand if Israel were again censured in the General Assembly and the festering Palestine issue of nationhood brought into the Security Council? What the Saudis do behind the scenes is one thing. For them to be seen openly aligning with "the Great Satan" and its allied retinue in the further destabilization of their avowed enemies would likely create great antagonism within the ummah.
Further, as one of the most repressive and misogynistic countries under the Western umbrella, what would be their position if embarrassing human-rights violations are slammed at them especially during their presidency month? Despite their despotic control of their people and US-Israeli protection, these issues could have serious, possibly fatal, repercussions for the House of Saud.
It is likely that the sudden rejection of the seat was a combination of three factors. An element of self-protective pragmatism, coupled with the opportunity to give a backhanded diplomatic slap to their erstwhile benefactors while yet receiving the most plus points for their "principled stand". This is the best of all worlds!
Interestingly, the Arab head of the Arab League and the Turkish head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) have fallen over themselves in defending the Saudis on the grounds that "Palestine and Syria have not been solved". Perhaps they need to be asked why that thought arose only when Saudi Arabia was getting the "prestigious" seat and not in all the times over the years that other members of the 58 OIC and Arab League countries have played stooge for the big powers.
The day seems not far off when the House of Saud will be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for services above and beyond the call of duty in ensuring the continued hegemony of Israel, the US and its Western allies over the intellectual, mineral, economic, religious, political and social resources of all the countries between India and South Africa.
Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say.Please click hereif you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.