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Sit on the U.N. Security Council?

Saudi Arabia would prefer not to.

Nov 4, 2013, Vol. 19, No. 08 • By JOHN BOLTON
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The Saudis have been entirely candid: They think the Security Council is broken. For nearly three years Riyadh has watched Moscow and Beijing stymie every effort to have the Security Council weigh in against Syria’s Assad regime, while U.S. diplomacy has been inconsistent and ineffective. Weak American policies toward Iran, moreover, combined with Russian and Chinese political cover for Tehran, have largely rendered the council a bystander to the Iranian nuclear problem. Now, with President Obama yearning for a negotiated “resolution” of Iran’s nuclear weapons threat, the Saudis have snapped. 

Make no mistake: For Saudi Arabia as well as Israel, an Iranian nuclear weapon constitutes an existential threat. The dangers are as great for Riyadh as for Jerusalem, and very similar in nature: a religious conflict that has existed almost since the birth of Islam, ancient ethnic disagreements, and the continuing inability to establish stable conditions for regional peace and security. That is why, if necessary, the Saudis (and most other Gulf Arab states) would privately welcome an Israeli military strike against Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The Arab governments will not say so publicly and, if Israel did attack, would likely join the international chorus of disapproval. But I for one would dearly love to see the private message that Saudi Arabia’s king would transmit to Bibi Netanyahu after a successful Israeli strike. 

Saudi Arabia is essentially saying, correctly, that the Security Council, even after the Cold War, is unable to resolve crucial Middle Eastern issues. But beyond these regional issues, Riyadh has exposed the council’s larger problems—indeed, the paralysis that has crippled the U.N.’s political decision-making bodies from the outset and probably will forever. The Saudis have done us a favor with their unexpected frankness, and the Obama administration in particular would do well to remember their admonitions.

John Bolton, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations
in 2005-06.

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