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Arabs must unite before seeking a permanent seat at the U.N.

Since the beginning of the new century, Arabs have demanded a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

Since the beginning of the new century, Arabs have demanded a permanent seat in the U.N. Security Council. The demand came in response to the U.N.’s promises of reform. The U.N., as its high-ranking officials have confessed, is an organization that has aged and became weak and outdated. The reasons of its establishment since the fall of the axis powers have changed.
Kuwait’s permanent delegate to the U.N., Mansour al-Otaibi, voiced the Arab group’s demand for a permanent seat. He reminded everyone there that the number of Arab states that exist had grown from five in 1945 to 22 today.

The truth is, we Arabs deserve more than a seat, not because of our big number but because of our numerous problems and causes. Whether we like it or not, our issues occupy most international organizations, from the Security Council, to the General Assembly, to the Refugee Agency, to the International Court of Justice, to the Human Rights Council, to the Food and Agriculture Organization, to UNESCO and the World Health Organization.

Arab vs. Arab struggle

Despite that, I wish I could hear Otaibi’s opinion on how the Arab vs. Arab struggle over a permanent seat will be resolved, that is if we assume that the U.N. has decided to grant a seat to us in the first place. Will the seat belong to Syria, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Algeria or Morocco? It’s a very important position. Saudi Arabia’s experience of rejecting the U.N. Security Council seat - though it was honorable and temporary - will not be repeated.

We must reform our reality before we reform the U.N.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Allow me to remind you of what happened a few weeks ago in Kuwait when a dispute over the Syrian seat erupted during the Arab League summit meeting. Although the Arab League had already made up its mind and deprived Bashar al-Assad’s regime of the seat, because he killed around a quarter of a million of his citizens and displaced five million others, the summit left the entire Syrian population without any representation - although the major topic of discussion was that of the Syrian crisis. This is because Algeria and its allies on one side and Saudi Arabia and its allies on the other argued over who has the right to represent the Syrian people. What a scandal! The Algerians succeeded in preventing the Syrians from being represented and the seat remained vacant.

Disputes are not only played out among governments but sometimes within one government. For example, the Lebanese foreign minister used to express his government's positions but he votes against those positions and in line with Hezbollah's agenda.

Arab countries will not agree

In brief, the Arab countries at the U.N. will not agree on anything. They won’t even agree on the Palestinian cause as when it came to this issue, Arab delegates have always been divided into two camps according to their governments’ positions.

Despite that, I am not saying that the U.N. should ignore the Kuwaiti envoy’s demand. What I am saying is that we must reform our reality before we reform the U.N. We know that no permanent seat will be granted to any country that’s not a superpower. The reform project failed ever since continental and regional demands increased. Second of all, the Security Council has proven it’s like a movie theatre consisting of 15 seats - a mere room to grant legitimacy to the decisions of superpower countries which had already made up their minds anyway. For example, if the U.S. really wants to attain authorization from the Security Council to topple the Assad regime, it would have managed to do that by resorting to several tactics. One of these could have been supporting the Syrian opposition well enough on the ground so as to convince the Russians to accept a U.N. resolution that achieves a peaceful transition in the country. More importantly, if Arabs had been a coherent political bloc, this would have been reflected in their presence at the U.N. In this case, their political stance of acceptance or rejection, and not the dream of a U.N. permanent seat, will be the matter of international consideration.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on April 14, 2014.

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Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.