Last Friday, October 18th, 2013, Saudi Arabia refused its seat on the UN Security Council as an apparent form of protest against the UN and the US for the International Community’s failure to adequately address the Syrian Civil War. Most analysts seem to believe America’s unwillingness to take unilateral military action in Syria, our support of the democratic process in Egypt, specifically when it happened to yield a Muslim Brotherhood President, reductions in Egyptian military aid, our willingness to speak with Iran, renewed controversy over the CIA drone program, and so on, inspired this unexpected gesture.
We live in a multiple polar world where regional powers must emerge to address regional issues and world powers share the main stage instead of one or two superpowers shaping world affairs, thus it is not necessarily a bad thing for Saudi Arabia to distance itself from the US. Healthy relationships are built on the ability of partners to seek their own interests while working to address each others’ mutual interests. As the United States has long been the world’s superpower, it is easy for a nation like Saudi Arabia to be overshadowed by America’s will. Meanwhile, the United States has a tendency of trying to display a unified front, thus American interests, as well as relationships, have been thoroughly neglected at times when our partners split from what should be our position. Henceforth, a little distance between the US and Saudi Arabia, even in terms of military dependency, gives the two longstanding allies a chance to recalibrate their stances in a world that is constantly in flux and varying interests take priority. Just as the US seeks energy independence and democratic interests, even when it goes against the interests of the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia has legitimate reasons to seek military and diplomatic independence.
That said, there is a danger in how Saudi Arabia distances itself from the American People. There is a tendency of Middle Eastern governments to demonize the United States in order to channel civil discontent inspired by their failings toward the ill-will their People often hold against America. If the head of OPEC simply goes on an anti-American campaign, it will undermine our relationships in the Middle East, especially considering the frustrations the American People feel toward the world that looks to us to solve problems. It will also make future American interventions and investments in the Middle East far more difficult as increased anti-Americanism creates resistance and conflict. Above all, it will certainly divert attention away from problem solving toward problem creation.
Read old posts