Friday, October 18, 2013

A seat on the UNSC is no good if you're allergic to taking clear stands

I think Erik Voeten is on to the reason that Saudi Arabia turned down its seat on the UN Security Council. KSA carefully follows the hypocrisy strategy of international relations. It maintains fairly good diplomatic relations with Iran, while spending its time when Iran is not in the room trying to counter that country's influence in the region. It unofficially tolerates Israel and was the proponent of the 2002 Arab League Peace Plan, while maintaining an avidly anti-Zionist posture to its domestic audience. It's a close ally with the United States, but doesn't like to advertise that fact for fear of pissing off the religious extremists. It is an "ally in the war on terror" while also being the official sponsor of Wahhabism around the world. The Saudi family maintains power by trying to placate everybody. And that often means giving different mutually contradictory messages to different parties.

Most nations crave the additional attention and influence that a Security Council seat brings. But for Saudi Arabia to sit on the UNSC, it would have to take clear high-profile stances on every issue that the council addresses over the next two years. Even if it abstained from a particular vote, it would undermine its claims to the partisans in the controversy that the KSA is really on their side.