After campaigning for months to earn one of the 10 rotating seats on the United Nations Security Council, Saudi Arabia decided to protest the entire body by turning down an invitation to join. On Thursday, the Kingdom was one of five nations to be elected to a two-year team on the 15-nation council that wields the only real power available to the international organization. In a statement complaining about the Council's recent ineffectiveness and "double standards," the Saudis said that the group has failed when it comes to "properly shouldering its responsibilities toward world peace."
The decision to turn down the invitation is considered a shot at Russia and China, two permanent members of the council that have stymied all attempts at a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria. Saudi Arabia has backed U.S. and French calls to intervene in the crisis on the behalf of the rebels, as they consider Bashar al-Assad's government to be threat to regional stability and a supporter of terrorism.
The move was doubling surprising, because the Saudis had been actively seeking one of the coveted seats on the council. While the five permanent members wield all the real power, it's one of the few opportunities for countries (particularly, non-European nations) to have some influence on global politics and get their issues heard beyond the even less effective General Assembly.
In this instance, the Saudis may have stumbled upon a sort of "reverse prestige" strategy, where the only thing more impressive than sitting at the cool kids' table is not wanting to sit at the cool kids' table. Plus, they are basically right about the Security Council's worthlessness when it comes to Syria, so this protest will probably accomplish more than anything they could have actually done sitting on the Council.