Jordan replaces Saudi Arabia on Security Council

McClatchy InteractiveDecember 6, 2013 

The U.N. General Assembly voted Friday for Jordan to head the Security Council after Saudi Arabia declined the post.

As the AP reports:

Jordan was elected to the two-year term on the council with 179 "yes" votes in the 193-member General Assembly. Saudi Arabia got one vote.

Jordan was selected by Arab countries and endorsed by Asian nations.

Saudi Arabia stunned the diplomatic world by rejecting the Security Council seat on Oct. 17, less than 24 hours after it was elected.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry accused the Security Council of failing to end the Syrian and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and to convene a conference on creating a Mideast zone free of weapons of mass destruction.

Jordan will join four other newcomers to the council on Jan. 1 — Chad, Nigeria, Lithuania and Chile.

Jordan's foreign ministry is in a busy state this week, with diplomats hurriedly packing up and heading to New York in support of the new position. They've missed an orientation session for new members and are now scrambling to take charge in a position for which nations typically spend more than a year preparing.

I'm told that there were mixed views on whether Jordan should assume the post, which can be equal parts honor and burden.

Some officials worried that Jordan was overwhelmed with the Syrian humanitarian crisis and refugee influx, and that it might not be prudent to be forced into taking strong positions on such a dynamic conflict right across the border. Others, however, argued that it's a rare honor, important to have Arab representation and would be an opportunity for Jordan to have a much higher international profile as it seeks help with the Syrian refugee flood.

Here's an excerpt from a report on what we can expect from Jordan on the Security Council, written by Curtis R. Ryan, a longtime observer of the Hashemite kingdom:

But does Jordan represent any significant change from Saudi Arabia in terms of likely stances in international relations? At first blush, the two might seem similar on the world stage: both are majority Arab and Sunni Muslim states, both are hereditary monarchies, and both have been closely aligned with Western powers -- with the United States in particular.

But while Saudi Arabia is a tremendously wealthy oil giant, Jordan is a resource-poor and deeply indebted country, in the midst of a long-term economic crisis. Both states have complained of Israeli policies, the continuing lack of an independent Palestinian state, and have warned of rising Iranian power (to the point of referring to the perceived dangers of an emergent "Shiite Crescent"), and both have felt the internal as well as regional pressures of the Arab Spring.

Yet unlike Saudi Arabia, Jordan has for almost 20 years maintained a peace treaty with Israel. While U.S.-Saudi relations have encountered recurring rifts, U.S.-Jordanian relations have never been closer.

Saudi Arabia has championed revolutionary causes from Libya to Syria, but led a reactionary and decidedly counter-revolutionary camp among the conservative monarchies of the region. Jordan, in contrast, has (as is typical of Jordanian foreign policy) attempted a middle path wherever it appears available, styling itself as a moderate in regional relations.

As Saudi Arabia has played an ever-increasing role arming elements of the Syrian opposition to the Assad regime, Jordan has played a more ambiguous and at times seemingly contradictory role regarding the Syrian civil war. Jordan has called consistently for a diplomatic solution, and has declared itself neutral in the conflict.

But it has also accepted U.S. Patriot missile batteries and F16 jet fighters to bolster its border with Syria, while giving sanctuary to Syrian opposition figures, and even being accused frequently in international media of arming and training select rebel forces. (The Jordanian government strongly denies the latter accusations).



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