By Shehab Al Makahleh
The 29th Arab League Summit which will be held in Riyadh on April 15th is taking place at volatile Arab and international atmospheres, amid sharp Arab divisions and disagreements. In the midst of various dangers the Arab countries are facing due to the repercussions of the so-called “Arab Spring” in some Arab countries and political rifts regarding some regional issues, the summit is slated to draw a “road map” for the coming era.
The summit in Riyadh, which will be preceded by several preparatory meetings due as of April 9, would be different as it comes after the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman concludes his visit to the US, where Saudi Arabia is trying to push the American administration to fill the vacuum that was deepened by the failure of its previous pull-out strategy from the region. The Arab summit will be held at very delicate conditions, amid great regional and international challenges, with internal threats of some groups that are supported by foreign countries which would pose a major threat to all Arabs. In the midst of the repercussions of incidents in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Libya and Egypt, Arab leaders will have to find a way out to end their schism that hampers the solution of many pending issues.
The most important topic will be the Palestinian issue and the frantic attempts to liquidate it by some foreign powers proposing risky projects, ending the dream of Palestinians of a state with Jerusalem as its capital. This means the abolition of the right of return to Palestinians that would lead to Judaization of Jerusalem with all its religious and spiritual significance to Muslims and Christians.
The performance of the Arab League is on the table of Arab leaders as it has become a must to develop the performance to meet the aspirations of Arabs since the league has mostly failed to solve many Arab issues since its establishment on March 22, 1945.
The timing of the summit is important as it comes in the aftermath of the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s visit to the US and his meetings with American officials. Such a summit will pay dividends in regime gaps between Arab countries and USA regarding some regional issues to rally around against Iran.
The delay of the summit from March to April is attributed for two major reasons: Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to the US and the presidential elections in Egypt (March 26-28), 2018. Thus, since Egypt has witnessed presidential elections, it has been important to wait and see the outcome to determine the new regional approach towards many regional issues and conflicts.
After the return of the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia to Riyadh, many deliberations will start among Arab states, which would be conducive to a proposal of a different creature of the Arab League. The question is: Will there be a unified stand towards some regional issues and conflicts starting from Syria, Yemen, Libya, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? What is the trajectory of the Arab League towards Iran?
It is not expected that Arabs will be united on all issues, especially Syria and Iran, However, the trajectory of the league coalescing around an anti-Iranian platform is growing after American President Donald Trump’s decision to re-address the nuclear deal with Iran by either adding new items that prevent Iran from producing ballistic missiles or by ripping up the deal by May 2018, with proposals to impose new sanctions on Iran for interfering in Arab affairs and posing threats to its neighbors.
The outcome of Riyadh Summit will be a continuum of the previous one held in Amman in March 2018, calling for restarting of stalled peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians on a two-state solution based on 1967 borders, with a focus on the Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Capital of Israel.
The coming summit is critical as the focus will be on means to counter terrorism, and to tackle political, economic, social issues of concern to Arab states. Beyond the veneer of sanguine statements, it is projected that the summit will bring closer the Arab countries at first hand, then bring them closer to the US to proceed with the coming regional transformation process of their societies in a bid to jointly confront extremism and terrorism and Iranians expansionism despite the fact that some Arab states would be conservative when dealing with Iran.
The leaders will advocate regional and international security. They will also focus on the hostile positions of the Iranian regime and the continued interference in Arab internal affairs in flagrant violation of international law and the principles of good-neighborliness, warning of the risk of Iranian ballistic missiles on the stability of the Middle East region. They will be calling for a joint action to protect regional waters and to combat piracy which adversely affect the commercial movement and economic growth of the region, with a call for combatting organised crime and drug smuggling
The Riyadh Summit will be an enhancement of the former Arab-Muslim-American Summit which was held May 21, 2017 in Saudi Arabia to further build a close partnership between Arab and Muslim countries and the US to achieve peace, stability and development regionally and internationally.
Observers here in Washington believe that the summit will draw up a “road map” for the leaders to consolidate relations and joint action on issues of common interest. The summit will recommend promoting coexistence and constructive tolerance among different nations, religions and cultures, with clear rejection of any attempt to link terrorism with any religion, culture or race.
Will we witness a new form of Arab League to be formed after the coming summit to better serve Arab interests and causes? Will we see a new coalition against Iran supported by the US? These questions are almost the part of the mission of the Saudi Crown Prince in the US.