If you thought you’d heard the end of Obama’s foreign policy mistakes in Syria, think again. America’s longtime Mideast ally, Saudi Arabia, is now displaying its disgust for Obama’s work.
Saudi Arabia was recently offered a long-coveted seat on the U.N. Security Council. But the Saudis unexpectedly flipped the U.N. the diplomatic bird. How shocking was this move? No nation had ever turned its back on the increased power and prestige that come with a seat on the Council.
The Saudis were blunt in their reasoning, saying that they couldn’t do the job because of others’ failures.
“Double standards existing in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities… leading to the continued disruption of peace and security, the expansion of the injustices against peoples, the violation of rights, and the spread of conflicts and wars.”
The Saudis continued, “Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill its people and burn them with chemical weapons in front of the entire world and without any deterrent or punishment is clear proof and evidence of the U.N. Security Council’s inability to perform its duties.”
When questioned about the decision, Saudi Arabia indicated that its anger is aimed at Obama. Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief, Prince Bandar bin Sultan (who spent 22 years as the Saudi ambassador to Washington), made it known that relations between Saudi Arabia and the U.S. are getting worse. The relationship between the two countries was already strained because of America’s missteps in Egypt, Libya, and Iran.
More importantly, bin Sultan told Reuters that Saudi Arabia will cut its cooperation with U.S. intelligence agencies. Unfortunately, I would venture to guess that most Americans don’t understand the significance of this shift.
To understand the importance of Saudi support in the Mideast, you have to understand the sectarian nature of the fighting taking place. Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and his allies, Iran and Hezbollah, are Shia Muslim. Meanwhile, the Syrian rebels – along with Al Qaeda – are mostly Sunnis. The sectarian lines are similar to those seen during the Iraq war.
While Syria was spinning out of control, Saudi Arabia stepped up to help the non-Al Qaeda Sunni rebel factions. America encouraged this Saudi engagement and convinced the entire leadership of the Mideast that it was serious about removing Assad.
Once it became clear that Obama was anything but serious, the Sunni rebels turned to Al Qaeda, a Sunni Muslim organization.
Now, according to Saudi intelligence estimates, as many as 6,000 Al Qaeda fighters have flooded into Syria. They’ve filled the power vacuum left by a retreating and inconsistent United States. In essence, the Syrian civil war has breathed new life into Al Qaeda. The Saudis believe that by spring, another 6,000 to 8,000 fighters will have arrived as reinforcements.
Losing Saudi Arabia’s intelligence support couldn’t have come at a worse time. Until now, Saudi Arabia has been a vital ally in the fight against Al Qaeda. The Saudis have allowed America to operate drones in Saudi airspace for attacks in Yemen. They’ve also cracked down on Al Qaeda and friends inside their own country, as well as in the strategically important Gulf Oil states.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has been, along with Israel, our best partner while trying to contain Iran’s nuclear program. The Saudis rightly fear a nuclear-armed Iran just across the already-tense Persian Gulf.
And now, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel also fear a radicalized Syria, controlled by either Al Qaeda or Iran. America’s unorganized and hasty retreat from the Mideast leaves our one-time allies high and dry, forcing them to look to China and others to fill the power void Obama has left.
The losers in this whole debacle are the exact people America should’ve been supporting: Western-friendly Muslims who might make peace with Israel and be allied with the Saudis.
This commentary originally appeared at CapitolHillDaily.com and is reprinted here with permission.