News / Middle East

    Foreign Policy Rifts Beset Arabs Ahead of Summit

    Foreign officials meet for the opening session of the  Economic and Social Council of the Arab League Ministers in Kuwait City, March 22, 2014, ahead of the 25th Arab summit in Kuwait, March 25-26.
    Foreign officials meet for the opening session of the Economic and Social Council of the Arab League Ministers in Kuwait City, March 22, 2014, ahead of the 25th Arab summit in Kuwait, March 25-26.
    Reuters
    Rifts over foreign policy will likely make it harder for Arab leaders meeting at a summit this week to forge a common stand on regional challenges, including what many of them see as a threat from Iranian-U.S. rapprochement.
     
    And while the Arab League meeting may agree more humanitarian action in response to Syria's war, any communique calling for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad will not reflect divergent views behind the scenes about the Syrian leader's handling of the conflict.
     
    Syria and Iran are not the only points of contention at the annual summit, scheduled to take place in Kuwait on March 25-26.
     
    The meeting follows an unprecedented row among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) alliance of Gulf Arab states over support for Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and a verbal spat between Iraq and Saudi Arabia over violence in Iraq's Anbar province.
     
    “No summit has been without differences, but this one is full of differences. It is distinguished by the intensity of these disputes which puts an extra burden on the host country,” said Ebtisam al-Qitbi, a professor of political science at the Emirates University in the United Arab Emirates.
     
    “It will definitely make it more difficult to focus on coming out with adequate resolutions, not to mention an agreement on anything,” she added.
     
    Arab summits have long been dominated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a topic on which most Arab states share a common view. But “Arab Spring” uprisings that began in 2011 have polarized the region.
     
    Syria's war echoes strains between Sunni Muslims, notably in the Gulf, and Shi'ites in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran, whose faith is related to that of Assad's Alawite minority.
     
    “Stand by the Syrian people”
     
    “There is a desperate need to clear the Arab atmosphere and to benefit from convening the summit,” Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said in remarks carried by Egyptian media last week.
     
    In separate remarks, Elaraby agreed at a news conference that the summit's decisions would be affected by “differences”.
     
    Syrian opposition leaders have been lobbying the 22-member League of Arab States to give them Syria's seat on the pan-Arab body, and to push Arab states to approve the delivery of military hardware to them to boost their fight to bolster Assad.
     
    Elaraby said in Kuwait that Syria's Arab League seat would remain vacant. A senior Kuwaiti official, however, said that the head of the opposition Syrian National Coalition, Ahmed al-Jarba, would deliver a speech at the summit.

    “The Arab summit is required to stand by the Syrian people in its great tragedy, not with words only but with material, financial, political and military backing,” Saudi Arabia's Okaz newspaper quoted National Coalition member Mohammed al-Sarmini as saying.
     
    But Syria's Arab allies, including Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon, oppose any such support for the rebels. They point out that Islamists, including groups linked to al-Qaida, are the most potent force in the armed opposition.
     
    Fragility
     
    Most Gulf Arab states, wary of Iranian influence among Shi'ite co-religionists in Bahrain, eastern Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, want the summit to send a strong message to Iran to stop alleged meddling there. Iran denies any interference.
     
    They also fret that their main ally, the United States, participating in talks about Iran's disputed nuclear program, may one day restore full ties with Tehran three decades after they were cut in a crisis over the taking of U.S. hostages.
     
    “Gulf states see the main challenge coming from Iran's geo-political project,” Qitbi said. “This project is getting strong and is trying to find cracks through which to penetrate the Arab wall.”
     
    The summit is also likely to be complicated by the political fragility of Egypt, the most populous Arab country: Cairo has been absorbed by its own internal problems since Egypt's army ousted President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group from power last year after mass protests against his rule.
     
    The army takeover fuelled long-standing differences between Qatar, a Brotherhood ally, and Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which both see the group as a potent political threat.
     
    “I think the Kuwaitis are anxious to ensure the Arab League summit passes off smoothly and without major embarrassment,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a Gulf expert at the U.S.-based Baker Institute.  “The emir and his officials will be keen to prevent any escalation of the diplomatic row with Qatar and may use the summit to step up private efforts to mediate a solution.”

    You May Like

    Clinton, Trump and the 'Woman’s Card'

    Ask supporters of Democratic front-runner in US presidential campaign, and they’ll tell you Republican presidential candidate is playing a dangerous hand

    Russian Censorship Group Seeks Chinese Help to Better Control Internet

    At recent Safe Internet League forum in Moscow, speakers from both nations underscored desire for authorities to further limit and control information online

    Video Makeshift Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Free classes in Islamabad park serve a few of the country’s nearly 25 million out-of-school youths; NGO cites ‘education crisis’

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: Intrepid from: World
    March 23, 2014 10:36 PM
    I believe their is more of an economic threat in the eyes of the GCC from Iran than anything else. To garner a piece of the worlds pie hurts GCC Dominance.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora