NEW YORK CITY – As the U.S. takes the lead role in solving the Gulf crisis, Saudi Arabia is keeping the United Nations at arm’s length, with sources telling Breitbart News that the Saudis told one of the body’s top officials not to travel to the country as he sought to mediate a solution to the conflict.
The U.N.’s absence in Saudi Arabia highlights the U.N.’s increasing irrelevance on the larger world stage.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to the region Monday, where he will stop in Qatar, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia to initiate talks to resolve the crisis. Saudi Arabia and its allies – the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Egypt – cut links with Qatar last month, claiming the country was sponsoring terrorism and is allied with Iran. Qatar denies the claims.
Tillerson has wide-ranging ties in the oil-rich region, which he forged when he was CEO of ExxonMobil and is likely to prove a savvy and knowledgeable negotiator in ending the crisis.
Jeffrey Feltman, a U.S. diplomat who has served as the under-secretary-general for Political Affairs since 2012, embarked on a tour of the region last week to try to help mediate a solution. But while he visited Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar, Saudi Arabia was curiously absent from his itinerary.
A spokeswoman for the U.N. secretary-general told Breitbart News that Feltman did not visit Saudi Arabia due to time constraints. However, the spokeswoman added that before Feltman left New York, he met with Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the U.N. and is also in “regular contact” with the Saudi foreign minister.
However, a high-level official at the United Nations told Breitbart News that Feltman intended to include Saudi Arabia on his tour but was told by the Saudis that he would not be welcome. The official said that Feltman and the U.N. as a whole have little standing in Riyadh, and the Saudis were keen to deter the U.N. from any attempt to interfere in the standoff.
A source within the Saudi government confirmed this account to Breitbart News, adding that the Saudi government views Feltman and the U.N. at large as discredited, particularly in its handling of the situation in Yemen. That official said that Guterres had been warned not to interfere in the Gulf and that when Feltman’s trip was announced, he was told that he would not be welcome.
“[The crisis] is going to be solved by the U.S., not by the U.N. – which is becoming increasingly irrelevant,” the U.N. source said.
The U.N. exacerbated its low standing in the eyes of the Saudis with the appointment of Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed as special envoy to Yemen in 2015, whom both the Saudis and Iran-backed Houthi rebels blame for the lack of a peace deal in the country.
The alleged snub of Feltman highlights the growing difference in standing between the U.N. and the U.S. While Feltman’s visit barely marked a blip on media radars, Tillerson’s trip is being seen as the best chance for a resolution to the crisis.
It also marks a change in tone for the U.S., which under the Obama administration showed deference to the U.N. amid its broader push to “lead from behind.” Under Trump, however, the U.S. has taken a central role in multiple hot spots and has highlighted the U.N.’s lack of action as well.
At the G20 summit in Hamburg last weekend, President Trump negotiated a cease-fire in southern Syria, where the U.N. has been largely impotent. The move comes after the Trump administration took the lead in April in bombing the site from where a chemical attack had been launched in northern Syria, purportedly by the Assad regime. A day before the airstrike was launched, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley had scolded the U.N. Security Council for its lack of action against the Assad regime.
A similar story has played out on the issue of North Korea last week, when Haley demanded action in the wake of the testing of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile by the North Koreas and warned against efforts to water down any resolution.
“We will look at any country that chooses to do business with this outlaw regime. We will not have the patience for stalling or talking our way down to a watered down resolution,” she said.
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.