The Dhahran summit reflected realism of the new Arab world

The Dhahran summit confirmed the emergence of a new Saudi Arabia capable of separating reality from fantasy.
Sunday 22/04/2018
A man takes a picture of the Arab League emblem at the 29th Summit of the Arab League in Dhahran, on April 15. (Reuters)
Different view. A man takes a picture of the Arab League emblem at the 29th Summit of the Arab League in Dhahran, on April 15. (Reuters)

When Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud titled the 29th Arab League summit in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, “Jerusalem Summit,” he was perfectly aware of what that meant.

An Arab League summit was needed to call things by their names instead of falling in the Iranian trap of using the Jerusalem crisis to embarrass the Arab world. The Iranian regime has been brandishing the slogan of “liberating Jerusalem” since 1979. What has it achieved?

The answer is simple: Iran has done all it can to serve the Israeli project. It rests on continuously pushing the deception that Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular do not want peace in the Palestinian territories. Israel must always appear in the role of the victim and Iran has served that agenda quite well.

To repeat like a broken record that Israel is a “cancer” in the region and that it must be obliterated does nothing but serve the interests of Israel, which claims there is no credible interlocutor with which to negotiate peace.

By supporting suicide missions by militants from Hamas and similar organisations, Iran and its satellites are delivering a great service to Israel. They confirm the Israeli deception that there is no one on the Palestinian side interested in peace negotiations.

Not only do suicide bombings in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv serve the agenda of the far right in Israel, they have a more pernicious objective — to destroy the Palestinian Authority (PA). The latter objective has been achieved since the PA has ended up being no more than a security agent. Is that what Iran wants for the Palestinians and their cause?

The Dhahran summit breathed new life in the Palestinian cause. It revealed that the Arab countries are not intimidated by the Trump administration. The summit declaration insisted on the “illegality of the American decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.”

In addition to ruining the Palestinians’ chances for peace, what is Iran doing in Yemen? What is the objective behind backing the sectarian militias called the Houthis and their leader Abdelmalik al-Houthi?

Iran’s goal in Yemen, besides destroying that poor country and splitting it along sectarian lines, is to threaten Saudi Arabia’s national security. The Dhahran summit addressed the issue and King Salman was straightforward in calling out Iran’s evil plans.

The missiles fired by the Houthis at Saudi territory were clearly Iran-made. It has become futile to ask about the reasons Saudi Arabia and its allies focus on the Iranian threat coming from Yemen.

If Israel has been a source of danger in the region, Iran qualifies as another one. This is why the summit demanded that Iran “withdraws its militias and all other Iran-allied armed groups from all Arab states and in particular from Syria and Yemen.”

The paragraph did not mention Iraq and Lebanon because those two countries were present during the summit but it is obvious the statement applies to them as well. Iran-backed militias in Iraq and Lebanon are doing their best to hinder progress on all fronts.

The summit did not fail to mention Iran’s illegal occupation since 1971 of the three Emirati islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa. The summit “reiterated the UAE’s sovereignty over its three islands” and expressed support for “the UAE’s efforts to reclaim them.” It called on “Iran to accept the UAE’s initiative for a peaceful solution to the crisis through direct negotiations or by resorting to the International Court of Justice.”

The Dhahran summit clarified things with respect to Israel and Jerusalem and Iran. It issued a clear “No” to Iran’s antics in the region and intimated to the Trump administration that being US allies does not mean that the Arab countries must accept the US decision on Jerusalem.

It told everybody that the Arab nations cannot be ignored and fickle talk about scoring victories against them is pure fantasy. When US, French and British forces struck chemical weapons installations in Syria, Russia pretended not to have seen it. Iran, on the other hand, claimed yet another victory over its usual enemies. Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah announced a victory over the “tripartite aggression” since the aggressors did not attempt a larger operation.

Nasrallah’s words recall the reaction of the Syrian Ba’athists following the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights. They, too, claimed “victory” because their regime was still standing. The fact is that the Syrian regime has always been safe from Israeli aggression as long as it does not claim the Golan Heights. That same regime continues today to break up Syria with Iranian backing.

The Dhahran summit had the merit of showing the realism of the new Arab world. It came after Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz’s visits to the United Kingdom and the United States. Unlike leaders who have never set foot on American soil, the crown prince illustrated the Saudi leadership’s sincere wish to know America from the inside.

The Dhahran summit confirmed the emergence of a new Saudi Arabia capable of separating reality from fantasy, of distinguishing between what is feasible and what is not and of spotting an enemy’s duplicity when the latter invokes the Palestinian cause.