Archive for November, 2013

Saudi Arabia demands permanent Security Council seat for Arabs

2013-11-09

NEW YORK – Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador Abdallah al-Muallimi to the United Nations demanded a permanent seat for Arabs at the Security Council, saying the UN body has failed tackle Middle East issues.

Muallimi criticized the Security Council as “crippled” by the veto power, which only five countries hold. He said a “just international representation” is needed.

Saudi Arabia rejected last month to take a traditional Arab seat in the Security Council in protest at the body’s failure to end the Syria war and act on other Middle East issues.

The Security Council is dominated by its five permanent members – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – which have veto power over its decisions.

To ensure diversity, the council’s 10 elected members are made up of three from Africa, two from Asia-Pacific, one from Eastern Europe, two from the Latin American and Caribbean group, and two from the Western European and others group. Five are chosen each year to serve two-year terms.

Arab states are split between the Asia-Pacific and African regional blocs and there is an unofficial deal that at least one Arab nation is always represented on the Security Council.

Saudi Arabia was the Arab candidate from the Asia-Pacific bloc. Kuwait had put its hand up to be the next Arab candidate from the group and to run for the 2018-2019 term on the Security Council, which has led some diplomats to speculate that the Gulf U.S. ally could be a capable replacement.

Arab countries have been trying to persuade Saudi Arabia to take up the Security Council seat.

“Kuwait forms part of the efforts currently being carried out to convince Saudi Arabia to reverse its decision,” Foreign Ministry Undersecretary Khaled al-Jarrallah told state news agency KUNA on Thursday.

Muallimi called on Friday for “profound and comprehensive” reform of the UN Security Council that includes expanding its membership and “abandoning the veto system or restricting its use.”

“The Security Council has failed to address the situation in the Palestinian and Arab occupied territories, an issue under consideration by the council for more than six decades,” Al-Muallimi told a General Assembly debate on Security Council reform.

“The Syrian crisis continues, with a regime bent on suppressing the will of its people by brutal force, killing and displacing millions of people under the watch and sight of a council paralyzed by the abuse of the veto system,” he said.

Syrian ally Russia, backed by China, has vetoed three council resolutions since October 2011 that would have condemned Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government and threatened it with sanctions.

Saudi Arabia has warned of a shift away from the United States in part over what it sees as Washington’s failure to take action against Assad and its policies on Iran.

US Secretary of State John Kerry met King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on Monday and praised the US alliance with Saudi Arabia as strategic and enduring, but strains in the nearly 70-year-old relationship were apparent.

Source: Middle East Online.
Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=62482.

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World powers, Iran clinch ‘historic’ nuclear deal

24th of November 2013, Sunday

By Simon Sturdee and Nicolas Revise

Geneva (AFP) – World leaders hailed Sunday a “historic” nuclear deal with Iran as a triumph for diplomacy, but cautioned the hard work was just starting to keep Tehran from building a bomb.

Iran agreed to curb its nuclear program for the next six months in exchange for limited sanctions relief, in a preliminary accord meant to lay the foundations for a comprehensive agreement later this year.

The deal was reached in marathon talks in Geneva that ended Sunday before dawn after long tractions between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany.

Tehran’s arch-foe Israel slammed the deal as a “historic mistake” that left open the capability for the Islamic republic to develop a nuclear arsenal.

But the six powers involved hailed it as a key first step that for now warded off the prospect of military escalation — a geopolitical breakthrough that would have been unthinkable only months ago.

“Today, the United States together with our close allies and partners took an important first step toward a comprehensive solution that addresses our concerns with the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear program,” US President Barack Obama said in Washington.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the deal “could turn out to be the beginnings of a historic agreement” for the Middle East.

Tehran boasted at home that the accord recognized its “right” to enrich uranium — which it says is for peaceful purposes — but Western leaders said the deal made no such reference.

Under the deal, Tehran will limit uranium enrichment — the area that raises most suspicions over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons drive — to low levels that can only be used for civilian energy purposes.

It will neutralize its stockpile of uranium enriched to higher 20-percent purity — very close to weapons-grade — within six months, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in Geneva after clinching the deal.

Iran will not add to its stockpile of low-enriched uranium, nor install more centrifuges or commission the Arak heavy-water reactor, which could produce plutonium fissile material.

UN atomic inspectors will also have additional, “unprecedented” access, Kerry said, including daily site inspections at the two enrichment facilities of Fordo and Natanz.

In exchange, the Islamic republic will receive some $7 billion (5.2 billion euros) in sanctions relief and the powers promised to impose no new embargo measures for six months if Tehran sticks to the accord.

But the vast raft of international sanctions that have badly hobbled the Iranian economy remain untouched.

The interim sanctions relief was “limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible,” the White House said, stressing that “the vast bulk of our sanctions, including the oil, finance, and banking sanctions architecture” will stay in place.

Right to uranium enrichment?

Hassan Rouhani, whose election as Iran’s president in June raised hopes of a thaw with the West, insisted “Iran’s right to uranium enrichment on its soil was accepted in this nuclear deal by world powers”.

But Kerry was adamant: “This first step does not say that Iran has the right of enrichment, no matter what interpretative comments are made.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC that only a final, comprehensive accord — if reached — would grant Iran a “right” to peaceful nuclear energy.

“The (interim deal) document does not resolve the argument about whether there is such a thing as the right to enrich,” Hague told the BBC.

Russia said it was a win-win deal, while Iran’s other ally China said the document would support stability in the Middle East.

But President Vladimir Putin also echoed Obama’s note of caution: tougher battles surely lie ahead.

“A breakthrough step has been made, but only the first on a long and difficult path.”

France called Sunday’s deal “an important step in the right direction.”

The next six months will see Iran and the United States, China, Russia, France, Britain and Germany negotiating the more comprehensive deal.

Joel Rubin, director of policy for the foundation Ploughshares Fund, warned the hardest work may still lie ahead.

“This is going to challenge all of the feelings, and conceptions and ideologies and emotions that have been pent up in the US, in the West and in Israel and elsewhere for decades. It’s going to be a very, very hard task,” he said.

Sanctions have ‘begun to crack’

The deal was reached at the third round of talks between the P5+1 and Iran since Rouhani replaced the more hawkish Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in August.

Much of the groundwork was apparently made in secret US-Iran bilateral meetings over past months, according to a report by the Al-Monitor news website.

Iranians, many of whom see the nuclear program as a source of national pride, are impatient to see a lifting of sanctions that have more than halved Iran’s vital oil exports since mid-2012.

“The structure of the sanctions against Iran has begun to crack,” Rouhani claimed after the signing Sunday.

Supreme leader Ali Ayatollah Khamenei, who last week described Israel as a doomed “rabid dog”, hailed the deal as an “achievement”.

For ordinary Iranians, news of the breakthrough was a moment of unbridled joy, with expectations that lives made miserable by sanctions would get better.

Their weakened money, the rial, strengthened Sunday after the deal, and a sense of relief flowed through Iranian streets and internet social networks.

“I am not opposed to the enrichment right. But I am entitled to other rights as well: the right to have a job, to see the development of my country,” wrote one Iranian internet user, Saghar.

Israel, though, virulently criticized the agreement, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu telling his cabinet that “what was achieved… in Geneva is not a historic agreement but rather a historic mistake”.

Many in Israel believe Iran’s only goal is to develop a nuclear arsenal with which to threaten their country, and want the Islamic republic’s nuclear facilities dismantled for good.

Kerry said the deal extends the “breakout” time needed by Iran to develop nuclear weapons and thus “will make our partners in the region safer. It will make our ally Israel safer.”

Many hardliners in the United States charged that Obama was being too soft on Iran.

Hawkish US lawmakers said they wanted to up the pressure on Iran to force it to go beyond the hard-won deal and start dismantling existing nuclear infrastructure.

One, Republican Senator Mark Kirk, said he would help craft new sanctions legislation “if Iran undermines this interim accord or if the dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is not underway by the end of this six-month period”.

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Smell of revenge as clashes between Saudi police and migrants turn deadly

2013-11-10

By Fayez Nureldine – RIYADH

Hundreds of illegal migrants targeted in a Saudi nationwide crackdown turned themselves in on Sunday after security forces besieged a Riyadh neighborhood where riots had killed two people.

Men, women and children lined up carrying their belongings to board police buses transferring them to an assembly centre before their deportation, a week after a seven-month amnesty expired.

Police said they intervened on Saturday following riots in the poor Manfuhah neighborhood of the capital after foreigners attacked Saudis and other foreign expats with rocks and knives.

One Saudi and another person, whose nationality and identity remains unknown, were killed, said a police statement carried by the SPA state news agency.

Another 68 people — 28 Saudis and 40 foreigners — were injured and 561 were arrested.

The Manfuhah district of Riyadh is home to many illegal migrants, mostly from east Africa.

On Sunday, police laid siege to the district while units from the National Guard and Special Forces were sent in, a photojournalist said.

The Ethiopian government said on Saturday it was repatriating citizens who had failed to meet the deadline of a seven-month amnesty, citing reports that an Ethiopian had been killed by police.

“They were trying to get them in the camp before repatriation and in that process… an Ethiopian has been killed with a police bullet, but we are verifying it,” foreign ministry spokesman Dina Mufti said in Addis Ababa.

Saudi police said on Saturday illegal migrants in Manfuhah have been given the chance to come forward and that accommodation has been made available while their repatriation is arranged.

On Monday, the authorities began rounding up thousands of illegal foreign workers following the expiry of a final amnesty for them to formalize their status.

Those considered being illegal range from overstaying visitors and pilgrims seeking jobs to shop assistants and day laborers working for someone other than their sponsor.

Having an official sponsor is a legal requirement in Saudi Arabia and most other Gulf states.

Nearly a million migrants — Bangladeshis, Filipinos, Indians, Nepalese, Pakistanis and Yemenis among them — took advantage of the amnesty to leave.

Another roughly four million were able to find employers to sponsor them, but in so doing virtually emptied the market of cheap freelance labor.

Expatriates account for a full nine million of the oil-rich kingdom’s population of 27 million.

The lure of work, even in low-paid jobs as domestics or construction workers, has made the country a magnet for migrants from Asia as well as from poorer Arab states.

Despite its huge oil wealth, Saudi Arabia has a jobless rate of more than 12.5 percent among its native population, a figure the government has long sought to cut.

Saudi economists have insisted that the departure of illegal workers will benefit the largest Arab economy in the long run, but Saudis have already began to feel the pinch of a surging cost of labor because of a shortage of day workers.

Saudis and expatriates say that casual workers who used to queue in public squares for odd jobs have virtually disappeared since police began strictly enforcing tough labor laws.

The labor ministry said on Saturday it will continue to accept applications from undocumented foreigners seeking to legalize their status, but that they will be fined for the elapsed period since the amnesty ended on November 3.

Source: Middle East Online.
Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=62488.

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Saudi police clash with foreign workers after visa raids

Sun Nov 10, 2013

(Reuters) – Saudi Arabian police clashed with foreign workers in a poor district of Riyadh on Saturday, nearly a week into a visa crackdown in which thousands have been detained and one man killed by police.

Security forces in riot gear fired into the air and used truncheons to disperse large crowds as scores of men ran through the streets, some throwing stones and other objects at cars and police, according to Reuters witnesses.

Two people were killed of which one was a Saudi while the other one was unidentified, the Saudi police said in a statement late on Saturday after it detained 561 people involved in the disturbances in the Manfuhah neighborhood of southern Riyadh.

The police added that 68 people were injured.

Most of the foreign workers involved in the clashes appeared to be Africans.

In a previous statement, the police did not refer directly to Saturday’s clashes, or say how many had been injured or detained, but said that in light of “what has happened”, the authorities had designated a location for people to surrender voluntarily.

Authorities this year said they would no longer turn a blind eye to foreign workers breaking visa rules by working for companies that had not sponsored their entry into the world’s top oil exporter.

The intention is to end a black market for cheap imported workers, cut the foreign labor force, reduce the flow of remittances to other countries and make more private sector jobs available for Saudi citizens.

A seven-month amnesty for foreigners to rectify their visa status without penalty or leave the country – which prompted an exodus of hundreds of thousands of foreigners – expired on Monday, prompting the start of the crackdown. Thousands have been arrested.

On Wednesday, an Ethiopian was killed in a raid after he tried to grab a policeman’s weapon, the Arab News English-language daily reported on Friday.

Many of those caught in raids on shops, marketplaces, businesses and low-income residential areas are likely to be deported.

Many expatriate workers say they were unable to take advantage of the amnesty because of bureaucratic difficulties or disputes with their original sponsors.

In some streets in Manfuhah, men in Saudi dress had also gathered in small groups, some of them carrying knives and iron bars, saying they were protecting their property. Other people watched from rooftops.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

Source: Reuters.
Link: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/10/us-saudi-foreignworkers-idUSBRE9A80EO20131110.

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Oman urges GCC to reduce domestic energy consumption

2013-10-21

DUBAI – Oman and neighboring Gulf states must move towards curtailing energy consumption drastically, reduce subsidies and boost efficiencies to keep the region’s rapidly rising oil and gas demand in check, the sultanate’s top energy official said Monday.

“We must drastically reduce our consumption, not only in Oman but in the region as a whole,” Oman’s Minister of Oil and Gas Dr. Mohammed Hamad Al-Rumhy said in a national keynote address at the first Gulf Intelligence Oman Energy Forum in Muscat today. The forum’s theme is focused on game changers impacting the Omani and global energy industry.

Today, the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states consume more primary energy than the whole of Africa even though their population is only one-twentieth the size of the continent’s, according to Chatham House’s Saving Oil and Gas in the Gulf report published in August. Heavily-subsidized energy has fuelled consumption growth in the region in recent years and led to rising energy subsidy bills for governments. According to International Monetary Fund estimates, energy subsidy costs in GCC countries ranged from 9-28% of government revenues in 2011.

“Subsidy is killing us. We should preserve energy on a daily level and use it wisely, which we’re not doing. We can do so much ourselves. We don’t need to start any nuclear, coal, bio-fuel activities in Oman,” the minister said. He added that there wasn’t much need for the sultanate to pursue renewable energy projects at present as “there is enough gas in the world.”

Abdulla Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah, President of Qatar’s Administrative Control & Transparency Authority and the country’s former oil minister, said in an on-stage interview at today’s forum that GCC states need to make a collective effort to curtail energy subsidies or be faced with drastic consequences.

“This is not a single country issue but a GCC problem. The region needs to move quickly to find a solution,” he said.

The emergence of Gulf states as major energy consumers has fuelled concerns over their ability to maintain oil export capacity. Domestic oil consumption among Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) members has increased seven‐fold in 40 years, to 8.5 million bpd. They consume almost as much oil as China, which is equivalent to one-fourth of their production.

According to OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri, who gave the international keynote address at the forum, the organization should be able to produce an additional 6 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude by 2018.

The increase would make up for declining output elsewhere, in particular in the U.S. where tight oil output is expected to start declining that year, El Badri said. OPEC output stood at 30.05 million bpd in September, down 400,000 bpd versus August levels.

Oman is the largest oil producer in the Middle East that is not a member of OPEC. The sultanate has set ambitious targets to boost the share of oil it produces from Enhanced Oil Recovery projects by 2021 in a bid to sustain a five-year trend of rising crude production levels. The country is also moving forward with an ambitious program to diversify the local economy as it seeks to reduce its dependence on income from hydrocarbons, add value to its oil and gas resources, and create jobs for its young and growing population, while at the same time strengthening ties with East Africa and South Asia.

“Oman is in an advantageous position and we must continue to make the most of our geographical location. We, as a nation, are at the gateway of the rapidly expanding regional as well as Asian and African markets,” said Mulham Al-Jarf, Deputy CEO of Oman Oil Company, which is the Title Partner at the Gulf Intelligence Oman Energy Forum.

Today’s forum is also being addressed by Nasser K. Al Jashmi, Under Secretary at Oman’s Ministry of Oil & Gas on the sultanate’s Oil & Gas In-Country-Value Program, and Dr. Aldo Flores-Quiroga, Secretary General, International Energy Forum (IEF) on Building New Partnerships for Post-Easy Oil Era.

Source: Middle East Online.
Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=62076.

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Kuwait elections begin amid hopes for political stability

2013-07-27

By Omar Hasan – KUWAIT CITY

Kuwaitis voted on Saturday in the Gulf emirate’s second parliamentary election in eight months with turnout the key issue as the opposition urged a boycott.

A correspondent saw few voters at a polling station in Al-Qasia, just south of Kuwait City, when polls opened at 8 am (0500 GMT) although turnout picked up later.

Information Minister Sheikh Salman Humoud Al-Sabah said turnout was high after visiting a polling station in Jahra, west of Kuwait City.

It was the first time that an election had been called in Kuwait during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan when the observant fast during the day.

Daytime temperatures were forecast to hit 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in a further disincentive to voters.

It was the second time that the opposition had called for a boycott in protest at an electoral law that it says enables the ruling Al-Sabah family-controlled government to manipulate the outcome.

The law was ruled legal in June by the constitutional court, even though it dissolved parliament on procedural flaws and ordered Saturday’s election.

But its judgment failed to satisfy the opposition dashing hopes of an end to a deadlock between the two sides that has seen the oil-rich Gulf state go to the polls six times in as many years.

“I just hope this parliament completes its (four-year) term,” said civil aviation employee Bassam Eid, after he cast his vote in Al-Qasia.

“We are frustrated at the repeated dissolution of the house,” Eid said.

The last two parliaments were dissolved by the constitutional court on procedural grounds, while the previous houses were dissolved by the emir.

“I am really concerned at the turn of events in the country as there will be no development without political stability which we hope will be achieved after this election,” doctor Jawad Abulhassan said after voting.

Pensioner Umm Mohammad said she hoped for an end to the disputes plaguing the country but was not that optimistic.

“We earnestly hope to see political stability in the country after this poll… We are still afraid that this might not happen,” she said after casting her vote at a polling station reserved for women in Jabriya, south of Kuwait City.

Some groups that boycotted last time round — notably the liberal National Democratic Alliance and some of the emirate’s powerful tribes — were taking part on Saturday.

But only a few opposition members were among the 300 hopefuls.

They include eight women, the lowest number of female candidates since women won political rights in 2005.

Around 30 Arab election observers visited some of the polling stations and were assisted by monitors from the Kuwait Transparency Society.

The opposition failed to mobilize the support on the street it succeeded in getting out ahead of the last election but has remained adamant that it will not take part in a “corrupted” political system.

Just days before polling day, the authorities arrested at least four candidates and dozens of their campaign staff on suspicion of attempted vote-buying.

Although Kuwait has the Gulf’s oldest elected parliament, all key government posts are held by members of the ruling Al-Sabah family which has ruled the country without challenge for over 250 years.

Analysts see little hope the election will bring political stability to the emirate, which has been rocked by lingering disputes since mid-2006, stalling development despite an abundance of petrodollars.

Kuwait has a population of 3.9 million, but just 31 percent are citizens and of that 1.23 million just 440,000 are eligible to vote.

The voting age is 21 and Kuwaitis serving in the police or army are barred from taking part.

The first results were not expected until after midnight (2100 GMT) as ballot papers are still counted manually in Kuwait.

The OPEC member says it sits on 10 percent of global crude reserves and pumps around 3.0 million barrels of oil per day. Thanks to high prices, the emirate has amassed around $400 billion in assets over the past decade.

Source: Middle East Online.
Link: http://middle-east-online.com/english/?id=60376.

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Saudi Arabia rejects seat on UN Security Council

October 18, 2013

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi Arabia on Friday rejected its seat on the U.N. Security Council hours after it was elected to it, in a rare and startling move aimed at protesting the body’s failure to resolve the Syrian civil war.

The Saudi discontent appeared largely directed at its longtime ally, the United States, reflecting more than two years of frustration. The two are at odds over a number of Mideast issues, including how Washington has handled some of the region’s crises, particularly in Egypt and Syria. It also comes as ties between the U.S. and Iran, the Saudi’s regional foe, appear to be tepidly improving.

Saudi Arabia showed its displeasure last month when Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal declined to address the General Assembly meeting. Days later, the kingdom’s unease with Washington appeared to manifest when President Barack Obama spoke to Iran’s new President Hassan Rouhani in a groundbreaking telephone call.

The kingdom was given one of the rotating seats on the 15-member council in a vote Thursday. On Friday, the Saudi Foreign Ministry issued a statement rejecting the seat, saying the U.N. Security Council had failed in multiple cases in the Middle East. Particularly, it said U.N. failure to act has enabled Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime to perpetrate the killings of its people, including the use of chemical weapons. The Syrian regime denies using chemical weapons.

“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 and shoulder its responsibilities,” the ministry said in the statement carried on the state news agency.

Saudi Arabia backs the rebels fighting to overthrow Assad in a war that has killed some 100,000 people since early 2011. Repeated attempts by the U.N. Security Council to address the conflict have fallen apart, usually because Assad’s ally Russia has blocked strong resolutions. Still, in a rare consensus, the council passed a resolution on destroying Syria’s chemical arsenal after an Aug. 21 chemical attack.

Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab leaders have backed the Syrian rebels with weapons and financing in part to counter their regional rival Iran, which has strongly thrown its weight behind its ally, Assad. At the same time, the friendly gestures between the U.S. and Iran’s new government have made Saudi Arabia uneasy.

Russia said it was “surprised” and “baffled by the reasons that the kingdom gave to explain its position” — particularly after the chemical weapons resolution. That resolution was passed after Russia brokered Damascus’ consent to surrender its chemical arsenal, which it had long kept secret.

There appear to be some efforts under way to get the Saudis to recant. Britain’s deputy U.N. ambassador Peter Wilson told reporters his team is looking at what precisely the Saudis meant by their statement and are talking to them “to get a little bit more background on what lies behind this.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he has “taken note” of the media reports of the Saudi rejection, “but I would like to caution you that I have received no official notification in this regard.

“We also are looking forward to working very closely in addressing many important challenges with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” particularly the Syrian war and other issues, including combatting “terrorism and nuclear proliferation,” he said.

He said member states are holding discussions on how to deal with the Saudi move. Ban talked to a senior official in the Saudi government after the news broke, a U.N. official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussion was private.

U.N. diplomats and officials said the Saudi rejection of the seat appears to be unprecedented. U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said U.N. officials were going back through Security Council records to check whether this was the first time a nation rejected a seat.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry statement was a sharp change in tone from comments by the kingdom’s U.N. ambassador the day before. At the time, Abdallah Al-Mouallimi said his country’s election to the council was “a reflection of a longstanding policy in support of moderation and in support of resolving disputes by peaceful means.”

He also said his country takes its election “very seriously as a responsibility.” The Saudi statement Friday also blamed the Security Council for failing to transform the Middle East into a zone free of weapons of mass destruction — a reference to Israel, which has never confirmed or denied possession of nuclear weapons. It also said the Council has not been able to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over the past six decades.

While Saudi Arabia and the United States share core strategic interests regarding mutual worries over Iran, cooperation in counter-terrorism and support for Syria’s rebels, they have differed in their approach.

Most recently Saudi Arabia’s leaders were furious when the United States pulled back from possible military action against the Syrian regime in exchange for the Russian plan to dismantle Syria’s chemical arsenal.

Editorials in Arabic newspapers over the past several weeks have reflected the Gulf’s concerns. In an opinion piece published in the Al-Hayat daily Arabic newspaper, columnist George Samaan wrote that if the Gulf states feel Washington is turning its back on them by improving ties with Iran, the Arab states could always look east to other countries.

Another columnist, Abdel-Rahman el-Rasahd, wrote in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat daily that rather than Obama striking the Syrian regime, he struck U.S. allies by calling Iran’s president and pushing Gulf states to pursue their own defense policies.

Washington-based analyst Frederic Wehrey said the recent U.S.-Iranian overtures were a “shock” to Saudi rulers.. “It’s not really a question that the U.S. is pursuing relations with Iran, but that Saudi Arabia feels left out in the cold,” said Wehrey of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. They felt “the rug had been pulled out from under them” and saw it as American “betrayal.”

The kingdom easily won the Security Council seat in Thursday’s vote in New York, facing no opposition because there were no contested races for the first time in several years. The Council seats are highly coveted because they give countries a strong voice in matters dealing with international peace and security, in places like Syria, Iran and North Korea, as well as the U.N.’s far-flung peacekeeping operations.

Saudi Arabia was nominated by the Asia group for an Arab seat on the council, so Asian nations would have to select a new candidate — or candidates. The entire 193-member General Assembly would then have to hold another election to choose a new council member.

The 15-member council includes five permanent members with veto power — and 10 nonpermanent members elected for two-year terms.

Lederer reported from the United Nations in New York. AP correspondents Abdullah al-Shihri in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow; and Maamoun Youssef in Cairo contributed to this report.

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