Brookings Scholars on Saudi Arabia’s UN Security Council Seat Rejection, Relations with U.S.

Saudi Arabia recently rejected a seat on the UN Security Council that its diplomats had spent two years trying to secure, a reflection of the country’s anger over western-stances on Syria and Iran. Then, Saudi intelligence officials said they were “scaling back” cooperation with the CIA in Syria. Earlier, Saudi Arabia expressed its support for the Egyptian military coup by offering assistance in lieu of American foreign aid. Brookings experts have commented on the recent developments and the broader scope of U.S.-Saudi ties, and come to quite different conclusions.

Doran, a senior fellow in Foreign Policy at Brookings, told the Telegraph:

I’ve worked in this field for a long time, and I’ve studied the history. I know of no analogous period. I’ve never seen so many disagreements on so many key fronts all at once. And I’ve never seen such a willingness on the part of the Saudis to publicly express their frustration.

… The gumming up of US-Saudi relations causes a cumulative but significant lack of influence by the United States in the Middle East. That influence can only be achieved by a coalition which we don’t have because we’re racing after enemies and dispensing with the interests of our allies.

On Tuesday, the day of the Saudi intelligence announcement, Doran, Tamara Wittes—director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, and Jeremy Shapiro, a visiting fellow, engaged in a Twitter conversation about it:

12:30 pm, Shapiro

12:52 pm, Doran

1:00 pm, Wittes

2:06 pm, Shapiro

2:09 pm, Doran

2:13 pm, Shapiro

2:59 pm, Doran

3:31 pm, Wittes

Greg Gause, who called the Persian Gulf monarchies, including Saudi Arabia, vital and
dependable allies
, wrote in a recent Iran@Saban blog post that:

There is no doubt that Washington and Riyadh disagree on quite a bit these days, from how to handle Syria to the generals’ regime in Cairo to the promise and perils of the Rouhani presidency in Iran, on top of the hardy perennial of Palestine. But these disagreements, while serious, do not rise to the level of a bilateral crisis. There have been even wider disagreements in the past, and the common interests pushing the two countries together remain as salient as they have been over the past six decades.

Still, Gause told NPR that the Obama administration’s turn from a threat of military action against Syria to diplomacy “infuriated” the Saudis, who are looking to limit Iran’s influence in Bashar al-Assad’s Syria:

The Saudis felt that we pulled the rug out from under them and they felt the United States wasn’t following through on what it implicitly promised to do.

Doran, who characterized the state of U.S.-Saudi Arabia relations “unprecedented,” expressed three points on Gause’s view:

Wittes, however, has said otherwise:

Get all Brookings research and commentary on Saudi Arabia.

Visit the Saban Center for Middle East Policy.