Terra incognita: Saudi Arabia’s Security Council charade

The Saudis should never have been offered a seat on the Security Council. It is time to stop handing out presents to cruel and backward countries.

Saudi woman370 (photo credit: Reuters)
Saudi woman370
(photo credit: Reuters)
‘Syria deserves to be a member of the [United Nations] Security Council because they represent a responsible government and the world’s people, and play an important role in our part of the world,” explained Saudi Arabia’s UN Ambassador Fawzi Shobkoshi. This was in October of 2001.
Twelve years later, the Saudis have decided that because the UN has not done enough in Syria, Saudi Arabia would refrain from serving on a Security Council seat it had been elected to. “Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people by the [sic] chemical weapons, while the world stands idly,” the Saudis said in a press release, “is irrefutable evidence and proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties.”
Lest anyone believe the Saudis’ change of heart is genuine, the reality is that this whole story of Saudi Arabia “standing up for principles,” is a charade being carried out by one of the most abominable countries in the world, a country that should never have been offered a seat in the first place.
Let’s start with some history. The UNSC consists of five permanent members with veto power and, since 1963, 10 temporary members who serve two-year terms. The 10 non-permanents consist of three African states, two Asia-Pacific states, Latin American states, Western European and one Eastern European state.
Five are elected every year. For many years there has been a tradition that one of the Asian or African states must be an “Arab” state. The “Arab” seat rotates among nations, alternating every two years between a North African Arab state, such as Morocco (served 2011-2013), and a Middle Eastern state, such as Libya (served 2007-2009). Because the regional blocs select their own candidates, there is little or no competition at the final vote before the General Assembly.
A 2007 Security Council report on the subject noted that the practice means “the UN membership at large has little choice in the African candidate... in the case of the Security Council elections it may lead to countries being selected based simply on rotation rather than their capacity to support international peace and security.”
Sometimes it seems the worst countries are continually elected to the Security Council, but it is simply that there are so many egregious rights violators out there. The General Assembly does not pursue a democracy agenda in refusing to vote for dictatorships or countries with terrible human rights records.
IT IS in that context that Saudi Arabia allowed itself to be chosen as the Asian group’s “Arab” candidate in 2013. After it was elected it supposedly decided to decline the seat and released a statement claiming the world had let it down: “Saudi Arabia, based on its historical responsibilities toward its people, Arab and Islamic nations, as well as toward the people’s aspiring for peace and stability all over the world, announces its apology for not accepting membership of the Security Council until the Council is reformed and enabled to carry out its duties.”
This set in motion the “shock” expressed over the Saudi decision.
Reuters claimed the Saudis were “angry over Mideast inaction.” A Saudi expert complained that they had “trained diplomats...men and women.” The Saudis portrayed themselves as defenders of Muslims being murdered in Syria, and directed their complaints at Washington’s inaction. The kingdom’s decision had the desired effect, with others scrambling to beg them to rescind, like parents begging a child who throws a tantrum.
France’s UN Ambassador Gerard Araud claimed, “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.”
Arab states have released a statement “urging the blessed” Saudis to reconsider so they can represent the “Arab and Islamic world.”
Amir Taheri at Asharq Al Awsat claimed the “Saudi move injects a dose of courage where it is most needed, it will be a much greater contribution to international order than warming a seat.”
Westerners jumped all over themselves to excuse and support the kingdom. Colum Lynch of ForeignPolicy.com argued that the Saudis objected to the fact that only five members of the Council control everything.
Bridgette Kendal of the BBC argued that they had used this opportunity to “lodge a public protest.” Dilshov Achilov of East Tennessee State University posited that the Saudis were standing up for the little nations of the General Assembly to have more of a voice.
The most sycophantic of reactions came from former UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia Tom Phillips, who noted that Saudi statements had referenced the failure to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“How can it be, the Saudis ask, that the West supports self-determination and democracy everywhere except when it comes to the Palestinians?” And there was Syria: “It seems clear that it is above all the Saudi sense of Western failure over Syria which has driven their decision... there was no mistaking the note of genuine moral outrage [over Syrian repression] which came from the very top of the Saudi system.”
Phillips claimed the Saudis think the council “lacks morality... they remain to be convinced that the West will put in a serious effort to achieve a result.” The Saudis “feel betrayed,” he said.
THE SAUDI narrative has been swallowed hook, line and sinker in the West. Remember, this is a country with nine million foreign workers (one in three people in the country), many of whom are cruelly abused and held in a state of semi-slavery, their passports confiscated, forced to work more than 12-hour days, seven days a week.
Of the 1.5 million Indonesians in the country, NGOs report 60 percent suffered abuse, with some being murdered or committing suicide after not receiving pay and being treated, in the words of one, “like animals.”
As an example, one maid, named Sumiati Mustapa, was burned with an iron by her employer numerous times and ended up in intensive care in 2010. Kikim Kamalasari was murdered and thrown in a dumpster.
Saudi courts often execute the maids (dozens are sitting on death row at this moment), who are accused of various crimes.
Employers are never prosecuted.
In a particularly egregious case, Sri Lankan Rizana Nafeek was accused of killing a baby at her employer’s house and beheaded. She was 17.
Saudi Arabia talks of morality, but it is one of the leading abusers of human rights in the world; a mass killer of domestic workers and a kingdom that thrives on slavery and abuse.
According to one report, two of three Sri Lankan maids in Saudi Arabia reported being raped. Saudi Arabia is literally a kingdom built on mass rape. Mass rape on this scale has been defined as a war crime, no different than what Syria is doing. The very existence of Saudi Arabia has literally harmed the lives of tens of millions of poor foreign workers throughout Asia and Africa.
It is also the leading nation in whipping rape victims. In 2007 a Saudi woman from the Shia Qatif province was attacked while driving with her boyfriend. A half-dozen men raped her and filmed it. She was then sentenced to 200 lashes for the “crime” of being in the car with a man she was not related to.
The world is falling all over itself to beg the Saudis to be on the Security Council, and academics and analysts are “understanding” their complaints that the Council is not more democratic and needs reform.
Except this call for democracy and reform is coming from a country with the most severe of dictatorships; where women may not drive or travel without “permission” from a male “guardian.” This is the country demanding “reform”? This is the country talking about “double standards”? Saudi Arabia, probably the nearest approximation we have to hell on earth, is being coddled by the West, yet again, for its “standards” and “demands.”
The Saudi agenda is clear: it is an opportunist out for its own interests, as is made clear by its one-time support of Syria as a “responsible government.” It is a country that wants the West to do its bidding in toppling Assad; Saudi blood and treasure will never be spilled, because the kingdom’s way is to get others to die for it.
They want the West to put in more “serious efforts”? It is time the West demand “serious efforts” from the Saudis. Saudi Arabia must spend its $100 billion budget surplus on its policies; it has a GDP per capita rivaling most Western states, with its middle class’s primary complaint being that they do not have enough maids from poor countries to abuse.
The Saudis talk a good game about Islam and the Arab world, so why can’t they lead 22 Arab states and the 57 Muslim-majority states to do something about Syria? They whine about Iran, so why don’t they go fight the Iranians? When the Saudis had the chance to fight Iran they bribed the Iraqis to die in droves for them in the 1980s, then turned around and begged the Americans to fight Saddam in 1990. The whole world has been abused by the kingdom, but rather than stand up to its charade at the UN, the world begs and the analysts take their tantrums seriously.
The Saudis should never have been offered a seat on the Security Council. It is time to stop handing out presents to cruel and backward countries.