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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More