For over six decades, they treated the West as their closest allies, but now it seems Saudi Arabia is desperately attempting to flash the Arab card. Having rejected the UN Security Council seat on high moral grounds, Saudi Arabia is attempting to break away from the U.S. and reaffirm its place in the Arab world.
If the joy on the face of Abdallah Yahya A. Al-Mouallimi, Permanent Representative of Saudi Arabia to the UN, was anything to go by, the decision of his rulers to reject the much-coveted UN Security Council seat sounds maverick.
This is the second time the Saudis seem to be acting out of frustration. Earlier this month, Saudi Arabia also pulled out its foreign minister, who was scheduled to deliver a speech at the 68th Annual Debate of the UN General Assembly.
Not permanent, yet coveted
Although not powerful by permanent member standards, a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council is much coveted. It gives nations a two-year term to have a say on all issues that concern international security.
After having lobbied intensively to secure the place for the past three years, the Saudi's used the opportunity to lodge an unprecedented form of protest after securing it.
Soon after the announcement of the election was made, the Saudi foreign ministry issued a statement scoffing the world body.
"The kingdom sees that the method and work mechanism and the double standards in the Security Council prevent it from properly shouldering its responsibilities towards world peace," the statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA said.
There is every indication that the Saudi's yearned for the Security Council seat; so much so, that several Saudi diplomats were sent to a year-long course at the Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs to understand the Council's functioning.
But why would the Saudi government throw away something they diligently yearned for?
Why would they do it?
Fasting and sacrifice may be symbolic Islamic tenants in Saudi Arabia's socio-religious stratosphere, but giving up a much coveted [even though non-permanent] seat in the Security Council is not an act of pure propitiation.
Events over the past month provide sufficient indication.
In its statement, the Saudi foreign ministry said that the UN Security Council had failed "to find a solution to the Palestinian cause for 65 years."
Sounds good to an Arab audience, but the fact that the Saudis themselves failed to act on the Palestinian question for the past six decades, is difficult to ignore.
The UN Security Council's failure to solve the Palestinian crisis has led to "numerous wars that have threatened world peace," according to the Saudi foreign ministry statement. Agreeable, but ironically so, for in most of these wars, the Saudis have been comfortable fence-sitters or have sided with all those fighting to destroy the Palestinian cause.
Palestine is not a new issue, and history makes it difficult to believe that the Saudi's would upset its UN Security Council aspirations for the cause.
On the contrary, they could have done much more in the next two years for the Palestinian people, compared to the past two decades.
Saudi defiance, not a lesson in morality
Saudi Arabia's act of denouncement on the UN Security Council seat is not an act of moral consciousness, but an attempt to redefine its realpolitik.
More than its act of rejecting the UN Security Council seat, what left the world flabbergasted was Saudi Arabia's attempt to break-free from the U.S. flank.
Saudi Arabia's hope that oil would help sustain a long-winding partnership with the U.S. is deteriorating for the past few years. This is because the U.S. is slowly attaining self-sufficiency in the key energy resource, as this problem has forced them all these years to keep the Middle-East chieftains amused.
In 2011, the U.S. refused to support Saudi Arabia's efforts to crush an anti-government revolt in Bahrain. Since the Arab Spring, Western experts seem to be suddenly questioning the legitimacy of the Saudi Monarchy and the lack of democratic freedom for the Saudi citizens.
Having aided the Syrian rebels, the Saudi government hoped that President Obama would lead his beleaguered nation to strike President Assad forces in Syria.
But as the Russia-brokered chemical weapons elimination plan in Syria took the wind out of the Saudi game plan, they realised Miley Cyrus' twerks moved the American citizens more than the victims of the Syrian chemical attack.
What broke the shaft of the Saudi strategy was the sudden shift in U.S. attitude towards Iran. Suddenly, the Saudi's felt they were left alone in the cold and voicing opinion quite similar to Israel.
Security Council would bind Saudi hands
Taking up its hard-lobbied seat at the Security Council would bind Saudi Arabia to act in ways contravening to its own position and interest.
Consider this-- on Syria, the Saudi government will be forced, along with other members, to welcome the efforts of its bete noire President Assad regime, to eliminate chemical weapons. With depleting U.S. interest in the region, at some point, the UN Security Council could also begin a critically examination of the role of rebel fighters in Syria, along with its affiliation of terror outfits. The Council could also demand that nations desist from arming the rebels; something which the Saudi government has been doing.
On the question of Iran, the Saudis know they cannot act decisively as the Israelis would-- by threatening to attack Iran, with or without U.S. support. The UN Security Council seat will therefore force the Saudi government to express solidarity with the world body, as it appreciates recent Iranian efforts to come clean on the question of its nuclear strategy.
Having refused the UN Security Council seat on high moral grounds, Saudi Arabia is attempting to reaffirm its place in the Arab world. Its allies in the Arab League and countries like Egypt, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, and Kuwait have all publicly backed the Saudi move.
With Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan indicating that there will be a 'major shift' in his country's relations with the US, the second act of the Middle-Eastern drama is just beginning to unfold.
To contact the editor, e-mail: