Saudi Arabia turns down seat on UN Security Council citing inaction on Syria

In an unprecedented move, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has refused a seat on the UN's Security Council, citing inaction on Syria and the Palestinian question.

Foreign Policy:

U.N. specialists say that this is the first time a country has ever flat-out refused a Security Council seat. In 1950, the Soviet Union boycotted the Security Council to protest its failure to accept the People's Republic of China as a member of the U.N. security body. The move proved disastrous for the Soviets. In June 1950, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution authorizing a U.S.-led military intervention in Korea, a decision the Soviets would have been able to veto if they had been present in the room. Two years earlier, Ukraine temporarily refused to attend Security Council meetings. But council diplomats say it is unprecedented for a newly elected member of the Security Council to decline to serve out its term.

"There are no precedents. Candidates normally drop out before elected, usually when their regional group is divided or the race for a seat is contentious," said Edward Luck, a historian and professor at the University of San Diego. But this is "a baffling case of shooting oneself in the foot. Apparently, Riyadh failed to learn the lesson of Moscow's boycott: You can't win if you refuse to play the game."

One U.N. official said that the Saudi action might be viewed "as a principled step" to underscore the council's inconsistency if Saudi Arabia "had a reasonable human rights record" and did not have a record of "promoting religious war abroad." Still, the official added, the gesture "could help shake up the current system."

Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert at New York University's Center on International Cooperation, said the Saudi move may reflect the country's realization that major non-Western powers are routinely "cut out of serious decision-making" by the council's big five powers.

"The Saudis may come to regret this maneuver," said Gowan. "It wins them some attention today, but they could find themselves excluded from Security Council talks on the war in Syria" and potentially on future talks aimed at relaxing sanctions on Iran.

If that's the case, he added, "this will look like a strategic mistake."

The statement issued by the Saudi foreign ministry is vague:

In a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi Foreign Ministry offered its "sincere thanks and deep gratitude to all countries that have given their confidence to elect it as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the next two years." But it said "Saudi Arabia ... is refraining from taking membership of the U.N. Security Council until it has reformed so it can effectively and practically perform its duties and discharge its responsibilities in maintaining international security and peace." It denounced that "the method and work mechanism and the double standards in the Security Council prevent it from properly shouldering its responsibilities towards world peace."

This is news? Only little children and starry-eyed one worlders think the UN is anything but a joke. As a venue to advance anti-American, anti-Israeli propaganda, it is useful. To stop or prevent wars, not so much.

Real power in the world is exercised by those willing to use it. The UN usually chooses to do nothing which makes them nearly irrelvant. The loss of a non-permanent member who would probably vote against American interests on many issues is no big loss - unless they are replaced by some other autocratic regime even more hostile to US foreign policy.


In an unprecedented move, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has refused a seat on the UN's Security Council, citing inaction on Syria and the Palestinian question.

Foreign Policy:

U.N. specialists say that this is the first time a country has ever flat-out refused a Security Council seat. In 1950, the Soviet Union boycotted the Security Council to protest its failure to accept the People's Republic of China as a member of the U.N. security body. The move proved disastrous for the Soviets. In June 1950, the U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution authorizing a U.S.-led military intervention in Korea, a decision the Soviets would have been able to veto if they had been present in the room. Two years earlier, Ukraine temporarily refused to attend Security Council meetings. But council diplomats say it is unprecedented for a newly elected member of the Security Council to decline to serve out its term.

"There are no precedents. Candidates normally drop out before elected, usually when their regional group is divided or the race for a seat is contentious," said Edward Luck, a historian and professor at the University of San Diego. But this is "a baffling case of shooting oneself in the foot. Apparently, Riyadh failed to learn the lesson of Moscow's boycott: You can't win if you refuse to play the game."

One U.N. official said that the Saudi action might be viewed "as a principled step" to underscore the council's inconsistency if Saudi Arabia "had a reasonable human rights record" and did not have a record of "promoting religious war abroad." Still, the official added, the gesture "could help shake up the current system."

Richard Gowan, a U.N. expert at New York University's Center on International Cooperation, said the Saudi move may reflect the country's realization that major non-Western powers are routinely "cut out of serious decision-making" by the council's big five powers.

"The Saudis may come to regret this maneuver," said Gowan. "It wins them some attention today, but they could find themselves excluded from Security Council talks on the war in Syria" and potentially on future talks aimed at relaxing sanctions on Iran.

If that's the case, he added, "this will look like a strategic mistake."

The statement issued by the Saudi foreign ministry is vague:

In a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, the Saudi Foreign Ministry offered its "sincere thanks and deep gratitude to all countries that have given their confidence to elect it as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the next two years." But it said "Saudi Arabia ... is refraining from taking membership of the U.N. Security Council until it has reformed so it can effectively and practically perform its duties and discharge its responsibilities in maintaining international security and peace." It denounced that "the method and work mechanism and the double standards in the Security Council prevent it from properly shouldering its responsibilities towards world peace."

This is news? Only little children and starry-eyed one worlders think the UN is anything but a joke. As a venue to advance anti-American, anti-Israeli propaganda, it is useful. To stop or prevent wars, not so much.

Real power in the world is exercised by those willing to use it. The UN usually chooses to do nothing which makes them nearly irrelvant. The loss of a non-permanent member who would probably vote against American interests on many issues is no big loss - unless they are replaced by some other autocratic regime even more hostile to US foreign policy.


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