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Saudi Decision on Security Council Is About Syria

Saudi Arabia’s decision to decline a Security Council seat expresses anger in some Sunni Muslim quarters about the Syria war.
Lebanese Army soldiers patrol in front of a poster depicting Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah in the Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tebbaneh neighbourhood, in Tripoli, northern Lebanon October 23, 2012. Four people were killed and 15 wounded in overnight gun battles in the Lebanese city of Tripoli in a second night of fighting between Sunni and Alawite gunmen loyal to different sides in the war in neighbouring Syria, a military source said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Omar Ibrahim   (LEBANON - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)
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Saudi Arabia’s decision to decline a UN Security Council seat is neither ordinary nor fleeting. Many may criticize the move, while others might wonder how Saudi Arabia can demand reforming the United Nations, which arose in the aftermath of World War II, while the kingdom still needs reforming itself and is far from democratic. While international parties, most notably Washington, tried to play down the decision, and others considered it a routine way of criticizing the international system, the Saudis' move was nonetheless surprising and shrewd.

The first to notice this was Russia, an old Middle East player that today is taking on a new role as the United States focuses on its internal affairs while seeking regional compromises. By quickly expressing its bewilderment at the decision, Moscow essentially recognized the significance and dimensions of it, the primary aim being to strengthening the negotiating positions of the kingdom and its Arab allies, especially in light of the looming US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the explosive situation in Sudan, harbingers of the Arab Spring, and other developments. What may end up determining the shape of the Middle East in the next phase, however, is the Geneva II conference on the Syrian crisis, especially with Russia having succeeded diplomatically, and Iran militarily, in prolonging the Syrian regime’s life.

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