Ever since the seventies, the world has become accustomed to the split in the Middle East, between those countries that support the West – Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco and Israel, and we might add Turkey to this list as well, and those countries that were members of the opposing, Soviet, coalition: Syria, Libya, Iraq and South Yemen. Lebanon was then between the democratic hammer and the Syrian anvil.
Despite the dissolution of the Soviet Union at the end of the eighties, there were no big shifts in political orientation, and the countries that were faithful to the Western bloc led by the United States remained faithful to it until recently, mainly because a new hostile bloc was formed, led by Iran and supported by Russia and China. The stronger the Iranian threat became, the more the pro-Western countries depended on America for support.
Lately, however, the pro-Western coalition has begun to crumble, and two key countries – Saudi Arabia and Egypt – are searching for a new political crutch, ever since it became clear to them that the American crutch is nothing but “a broken reed” (Isaiah, 36:6). A few more countries can be added to this list, mainly Turkey and the Gulf Emirates.
In an unprecedented move, the Saudi kingdom has refused to become a member of the most powerful body in the world, the Security Council of the UN, a body authorized to deal with the world’s security problems and, with the power of the authority vested in it, can even declare war as a world body on a country that violates its resolutions. The question that immediately arises is: why did Saudi Arabia refuse to become a member of the body that is perhaps the only one capable of dealing with Iran’s military nuclear project? Why did Saudi Arabia reject the opportunity to influence events in Syria from within the Security Council? Why doesn’t Saudi Arabia take advantage of the most important stage in international policy in order to take action against Israel?
The superficial reason is that which the Saudi foreign office published, expressing an ethical position: the kingdom will not agree to enter the Security Council until the Council undergoes reforms that will enable it to fulfill its role, which is to maintain world peace. The obsolete apparatus, the wasteful practices, and double standards used by the Security Council all prevent it from fulfilling its role. There are many examples of this: the Palestinian problem has not been solved despite it having been created 65 years ago, and despite the fact that the wars stemming from it have threatened the peace of the entire region and the world several times. The Council allows the Syrian dictator continue slaughtering his citizens for almost three years without imposing effective sanctions, and the Council has failed to achieve the goal of turning the Middle East into an area free of weapons of mass destruction because it has not managed to create an effective method of oversight for military nuclear projects.
Despite the fact that the Saudis do not speak specifically about Iran in their official announcement, it is clear that their reference is not to Israel, from whom they fear no danger, but to Iran, whose nuclear plans do keep them awake at night. However, it is specifically the Iranian nuclear issue which should have pushed Saudi Arabia to become a member the Council; membership could have granted them an active role in making decisions against Iran, so why not join?
In part, the reasons relate to the way that the Saudis see the international alignment of countries recently but is also connected to the customary culture of honor in the Middle East, without which it would be impossible to understand the behavior of the Saudis, proud sons of the desert.
First of all, a person of honor does not join a club where he is considered a class ‘B’ member. In the Security Council there are class ‘A’ members – the five permanent members (the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China) who have nuclear weapons and veto power, and there are class ‘B’ members – the ten countries with temporary membership, who are not allowed to attain nuclear weapons and do not have veto power. Saudi Arabia would in no way agree to be a class ‘B’ member of any organization, and would prefer not to join because honor is more important to it than anything else.