Why Do Saudis Want to Decline a United Nations Security Council Seat?

Today Saudi Arabia got itself elected as non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It was the first time that Saudi Arabia gained this position and an experienced diplomat expected great Saudi influence:

No doubt, it is a show of determination that the Saudi voice should be heard lest it is taken for granted by the big powers. It is a conscious decision to be assertive on the international stage.

Clearly, the Saudis are flaunting their prerogative to pronounce on the Syrian conflict. Many crucial decisions on Syria’s future will be taken at the Security Council through the coming year or two and Saudis want to influence them instead of being a passive onlooker.If all this is going to be a good thing or not, time will tell. The notorious P5 gang will be looking quizzically at the great pretender. But, the point is, Security Council will now have five-and-a-half veto holding members. This never happened before and a new alchemy is called for.

But shortly after news of the election by the General Assembly ran over the ticker and the diplomats piece was published the Saudis backtracked. They declined to take the Security Council seat citing three reasons:

“The continuation of the Palestinian Cause without a just and lasting solution for 65 years, resulting in several wars that threatened international peace and security, is irrefutable evidence and proof of the Security Council’s inability to carry out its duties,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.“The failure of the Security Council to make the Middle East a region free of all weapons of destruction, its inability to subdue the nuclear programs of all countries in the region without exception…is more irrefutable evidence of its inability to shoulder its responsibilities,” it added.

“Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people through the use of chemical weapons, while the world stands idly by, without applying any deterrent sanctions against the Damascus regime, is also proof of the Security Council’s inability to carry out its duties and responsibility,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.

Notice that the first two very important and longstanding Arab issues will be barely mentioned, if at all, in “western” news reports. The Associated Press report  includes “Syria” nine times but mentions the Palestinian and WMD-free zone issue only in its thirteenth and last paragraph.

The Saudi move is a bit weird. A country does not get elected to the UNSC seat without wanting it. There is usually quite a competition about that position and bribes flow here and there to get the votes.

The Saudi foreign minister Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has his position since 1975. He by now certainly knows his job. Did he really attempt to get the UNSC seat only to decline it?

This is the second time the Saudis are throwing a temper tantrum at the United Nations. The Saudis canceled their planned speech at the last UN General Assembly also citing lack of action by the United Nations as their reason. Nobody really cared about that just like nobody will care about Saudi Arabia rejecting the UNSC position.

Why then are the Saudis doing this? What is their plan?



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