Saudi Arabia was elected to a seat in the UN Security Council but quickly rejected that position and slammed the council for its "double standards" in diplomacy. The event particularly highlights Saudi frustration with the US and with the international community for failing to intervene in Syria, where Saudi has backed the rebels against Assad. Saudi suspicion of the warming relationship between the US and Iran only complicates matters.
The Associated Press reported that the statement from Riyadh explicitly attacked the UN Security Council not only on Syria but on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Middle East security as a whole:
“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 Saudi Foreign Ministry said.
The foreign ministry statement also said the U.N. Security Council has not been able to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict over the past six decades and has failed 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.
Saudi's rejection of the Security Council seat was unprecedented. The largest country in the Arabian Peninsula had campaigned for the much-coveted seat for two years and had never been selected previously. The international community is still in shock, and Russia has already issued an aggressive response. Because the decision likely came from the Saudi royal family, which strictly controls speech and press in the country, it is difficult to source any dissenting voices in the Saudi government.
Even academics, diplomats, and other Middle East watchers specializing in Saudi Arabia were caught off guard with the announcement of the rejection. Critics of Saudi Arabia were quick to point out that Saudi has quite a few human rights abuses of its own that do not put it in a position to criticize the Security Council on issues like Syria.
It remains to be seen how the Security Council as well as the US will handle this incident, or if it is too late for Saudi to change its mind.