(/sites/default/files/uploads/2013/10/saudi-arabia-hrw.jpg)In declining to accept a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council that it had actively sought for two years, Saudi Arabia pouted that it could not abide by the Security Council’s “double-standards.” Saudi Arabia had just won the seat last Thursday at a UN General Assembly election, along with Chad, Chile, Lithuania and Nigeria. The Saudis do not like the direction that the Security Council has taken recently in finally coming together to mandate the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles and to formally support the international community’s efforts to hold a peace conference in Geneva that includes representatives of the Assad regime. The Saudis also complained that the Security Council has failed to deal adequately with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“Work mechanisms and double-standards on the Security Council prevent it from carrying out its duties and assuming its responsibilities in keeping world peace,” the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “Therefore, Saudi Arabia… has no other option but to turn down Security Council membership until it is reformed and given the means to accomplish its duties and assume its responsibilities in preserving the world’s peace and security,” it added.
The Russian foreign ministry described the Saudis’ decision as “strange.” The French, however, were more understanding. “We think that Saudi Arabia would have brought a very positive contribution to the Security Council, but we do also understand the frustration of Saudi Arabia,” France’s UN ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that as of Friday he had not yet received official notification of Saudi Arabia’s decision, but added in remarks to reporters:
“We also are looking forward to working very closely in addressing many important challenges with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, particularly to bring an end to the war in Syria, to help Palestinian people to achieve a viable State, and to help the current transition in Yemen, and also to extend humanitarian assistance to all the people in need, and to combat terrorism and nuclear proliferation.”
Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the U.S. State Department, said that “I understand different countries will have different responses, but we’ll continue to work with them on issues that we share of mutual concern.”
Indeed, while the Obama administration has decided to seriously curtail the ongoing provision of military support to the interim government in Egypt, which is fighting terrorists in Sinai and elsewhere who are threatening regional stability, the administration has just recently announced to Congress “a possible Foreign Military Sale to Saudi Arabia of various munitions and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $6.8 billion.” This transaction will include various kinds of missiles, on top of a separate deal entered into late last year under which the Saudis are to purchase 84 new and 70 refurbished F-15SA multi-role fighter aircraft and associated weapons.
That’s a lot of armament going to a country that sponsors jihadist attacks outside of its own borders, including, most notably, in Syria where it is enabling the flow of arms to jihadists.
Moreover, for years, Saudi Arabia’s wealthy donors have funded terrorist organizations. Indeed, as a December 2009 diplomatic cable noted, which was signed by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and later disclosed by WikiLeaks, “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” The cable added that there was an “ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.”
Ironically, on the very same day as Saudi Arabia announced its decision to reject a seat on the Security Council, that body was conducting an open debate on the theme “”Women and Peace and Security.” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power spoke on the importance of women’s rights and equal participation to advance peace and security worldwide. One day earlier Ambassador Power issued the obligatory statement congratulating Saudi Arabia and the other four member states on their election to the Security Council. One wonders whether she is relieved at not having to sit next to a representative from the racist, misogynistic society, infused with the supremacist Wahhabi Islamic ideology, which defines Saudi Arabia.
As Hillel Neuer, executive director of the non-governmental human rights group UN Watch put it:
“While the Saudi statement invoked UN ‘double standards’ as their grounds for refusal, the truth is that Saudi Arabia’s entire system is a double standard. Under Saudi law and practice, there is one standard for men, and another for women, who cannot vote, drive a car, or travel without a male guardian; one for Muslims, and another for Christians, 53 of whom who were arrested this year by religious police for praying in a private home; one for heterosexuals, and another for gays, where homosexuality is punishable by death, and where gays have been publicly beheaded.
Women are subjugated in Saudi Arabia. They suffer gross and systematic inequality, and discrimination in law and practice.”
In sum, as long as an even worse country such as Iran does not replace Saudi Arabia on the Security Council, Saudi Arabia’s decision to give up its seat is a very positive development for those who care about human rights and are concerned about the spreading jihadist threat funded by the Saudis.
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