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Saudi Arabia Shifts to More Activist Foreign Policy Doctrine

The kingdom should give priority to a regional initiative in Syria and a collective security framework for maintaining order in the Arab world.
Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al Faisal (L) talks with Qatar Foreign Minister Khalid Al Attiya following their meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and members of the Arab Peace Initiative at the United States Embassy in Paris, September 8, 2013. REUTERS/Susan Walsh/Pool (FRANCE - Tags: POLITICS) - RTX13CWG

RIYADH — Something quite significant, yet little reported, occurred at the annual UN General Assembly in September. The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal, had been scheduled to address the assembly on Oct. 7, but on short notice he announced that he would not be delivering his country's message. The reasons were clearly the kingdom's shock at the weak global response to the enormous tragedy unfolding in Syria, due to a dysfunctional and inept UN Security Council, as well as the continued inattention to the issue of Palestinian statehood.

What few seem to understand is that such a powerful gesture is not merely symbolic. Rather, it will be accompanied by concrete policy changes and rectifications in the coming months and years that are going to set the tone for a completely transformed Saudi foreign policy. Saudi Arabia, the world’s energy superpower, and the economic engine and last remaining political heavyweight in Arab world, will continue for a variety of reasons to take a far more proactive and assertive role in maintaining stability and security in the Middle East and North Africa and the broader Muslim world.

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