Problems on hold
The 28th Arab League Summit was held on 29 March in Jordan. Sadly, no one expected the Arab leaders to work any real change to the precarious, fragmented Arab scene, or to adopt stances or decisions that would lead to a strong Arab bloc able to take control and put an end to Arab powerlessness.
As has become customary, the Arab Summit produced nothing but vague, flowery Arab rhetoric. The Amman Declaration confirmed the Arab leaders’ amazing capacity to evade the real issues and reflect a fake solidarity. The summit’s resolutions were drafted in ambiguous clauses that neither offer anything new nor resolve any situation. Here is a brief reading of the declaration and my take on it:
- Palestine: Arab States should work to re-launch serious, effective Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations that would end the current gridlock and follow a set schedule to end the conflict, basing on the two-State solution which guarantees the establishment of a Palestinian State. They should confirm that comprehensive permanent peace is a strategic Arab choice, and should reject all Israeli unilateral moves that aim at changing the on-the-ground situation and undermining the two-State solution. All measures taken by Israel to alter the legal and historic state of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in occupied Jerusalem should be rejected, and the international community should be demanded to refrain from moving embassies to Jerusalem or recognising it as capital of Israel.
This is what the Amman Declaration said about the Palestinian crisis. What new idea does the declaration offer, what capacity to change the situation? Did the Arab leaders discuss Palestinian divisions and the fragmentation of power between Abu-Mazen in Ramallah and Hamas in Gaza? Don’t they realise that this sedition is a precious gift they are offering Israel to propagate in international circles that it cannot sit down to negotiations with Palestinians since it does not know who to sit down with? Did the Arab Summit discuss the contradiction between Abu-Mazen’s moderateness and his capacity to unify Palestinian ranks as opposed to the intransigence and arrogance of Hamas, let alone its obstruction of any Palestinian conciliation, which only benefits Israeli strategic interests?
- Syria: Arab States should stress the need to find a peaceful solution to end the Syrian crisis, achieve the ambitions of the Syrian people, preserve the unity of Syria, defend its sovereignty and independence, and eliminate all terrorist groups. There can be no military solution to the crisis; the only way to stop the bloodshed is to reach a peaceful settlement inspired by the Geneva Negotiations. The Arab League is to be delegated to create a well-defined mechanism to help the Arab countries which host Syrian refugees shoulder the burden.
The Amman Declaration underscores the imperativeness of a peaceful resolution to end the Syrian crisis. Are not the Arab leaders aware of the military encounters between the Syrian army supported by Russia and the armed terrorist groups that the US and some European States fund and support, or that the Syrian army has recaptured most of the lands that had fallen to the armed opposition, last of which was Aleppo? Do they not know that the Geneva negotiations have failed time and again as armed terrorist groups stood their ground? Or that even earlier there had been much talk among the international community about the nightmarish scenario of dividing Syria until the Russians intervened and the Syrian army was able to triumph? The only reasonable proposal by the recent summit was setting a mechanism through which to help the States that host Syrian refugees: Lebanon hosts 2 million, Jordan 1.3 million, and Egypt 500,000
- Iraq: The Arab States stress the need for security and stability in Iraq, and confirm their absolute support for Iraq in its efforts to eradicate terrorist gangs and free Mosul from Daesh. They value the accomplishments of the Iraqi army, and support all efforts at restoring security and safety to Iraq and achieving national conciliation.
Again, Arab leaders hide behind ornate clauses and loose expressions in order to avoid confronting the messy Iraqi policy, and the divisions which allowed Daesh to emerge and fester until it gained control over a third of Iraq. The Amman Declaration did not address the situation of the Kurds in Iraq, neither did it mention the conflict between Shiites and Sunnis and other political forces. It suggested no peaceful solution as in case of Syria. On the ground, only arms hold the answer to the Iraqi crisis.
- Yemen: The efforts of the Arab coalition in supporting legitimacy in Yemen should be sustained, and the union and independence of Yemen defended. No intervention should be allowed in the country’s internal affairs, and its security and that of its Gulf neighbours should be ensured.
I wonder whether the unspoken side of the Yemeni crisis was discussed—even if behind closed doors—or was the subject avoided to maintain the look of Arab harmony? I speak of the Saudi-Iranian conflict raging on Yemeni soil, initiated by the Saudis more than two years ago and so far failing to defeat the Houthis. Does non-intervention in Yemen denote Iran alone or Saudi Arabia too?
- Libya: It is imperative to achieve security and political stability in Libya through a national conciliation. Support should be extended to the Libyans in their attempt to defeat the terrorist gangs and eradicate terrorism in Libya and the danger it poses to neighbouring countries.
The Declaration failed to mention that Libya has fallen prey to armed, paid terrorist groups that fragmented the legitimate State, to the point of obliterating the features of the State. The Declaration merely avowed Arab incapacity in addressing the Libyan crisis through endorsing the attempts of the United Nations, the European Union and the African Union at the Libyan-Libyan dialogue.
I wish to review here excerpts of an article written by Muhammad Abdel-Hady, Editor-in-Chief of al-Ahram, upon his return from Amman:
- Most Arab representatives were overcome by a chronic trepidation to admit deep differences regarding fateful issues such as Syria, Yemen and Libya.
- Arab powerlessness was at its epitome when Arab leaders were faced with the question of how to respond in case the US Embassy moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. In 1991 the Arab League had issued a decision to sever relations with any State that would do so; this decision was put into effect with Salvador. What about the US?
- Differences were very obvious when it came to the definition of terrorism, terrorist organisations, and groups that support and fund terrorism; they were circumvented in order to ensure a minimum semblance of Arab solidarity.
- The summit, which was originally dubbed ‘the summit of self-determination’, practically decided to ‘internationalise’ Arab issues by placing them in the hands of relevant international negotiations.
- The balancing policy was obvious when Turkish interference in Iraq was condemned in exchange for condemnation of Iranian interference in the Gulf.
- The issue which now remains on hold is the absence of a unified political will to come up with Arab solutions to Arab crises, to replace international solutions or moves devoid of Arab presence.
Was the Amman Summit anything but a summit of embellishment, rants and incapacity?
9 April 2017