Trump orders more Iran sanctions as Saudi Arabia displays attack evidence    UK parliament suspension not a matter for judges, PM Johnson's lawyer tells Supreme Court    Fire in Liberia school kills at least 27 children    Neuer considering Germany retirement after Euro 2020    Spain braces for its fourth election in four years    Danone Nations, DECATHLON launch series of initiatives, creating change    Fed expected to cut rates again, second time in a decade    Live score: Paris Saint-Germain v Real Madrid (UEFA Champions League)    Russia, China conduct massive military drills, sending a message to the West    Huawei will invest $1.5 billion in its developer program    I deserve more Ballon d'Or awards than Messi, says Ronaldo    World at risk of pandemics that could kill millions    Mint, menthol e-cigarette liquids high in cancer-causing compound    Perils of gender and geography hamper global development    Saudi markets rise as oil supply disruption eases    Gold climbs as investors await Fed policy decision    Saudi Arabia says full production restored within the month    'Egypt will not allow any country to impose its will on another in Ethiopian dam issue,' FM says    Egypt's new listing amendments mandate more women on boards    Egypt, Ethiopia at odds as talks over Blue Nile dam resume    5 plant-based soup recipes to warm your body and soul    Egypt's Ahly to train for Super Cup game against Zamalek immediately    US waiting and watching on oil reserve, market well supplied: Perry    FTSE 100 steadies after Saudi attacks; Sirius Minerals plummets    Egypt says GERD talks with Ethiopia 'stumbled', next round in Khartoum in October    Tutankhamun Opera to debut with inauguration of Grand Egyptian Museum: Zahi Hawass    Egyptian transport start-up Swvl plans IPO in 5-10 years    Egypt court sentence 6 to death for joining terrorist group, manufacturing explosives; 8 acquitted    'Al-Daheeh' host Ahmed El-Ghandour shortlisted for IBC's first 'Young Pioneer' award    Egypt's Zamalek suffer surprise 2-1 defeat at Senegal's Generation Foot    Egypt's Sisi discusses education, terrorism at national youth conference    Sisi to open 8th edition of the National Youth Conference Saturday    Spotify buys music production marketplace SoundBetter    Egypt's PM discusses details of Al-Hussein Mosque renovation    Egypt's Baron Empain Palace to be reopen after renovation    Court sentences six to death, 41 to lifetime imprisonment violence related case    Trump says he would release Mideast peace plan after Israeli elections    NBE announces EGP 2.5m prizes for handball youth teams for their world achievements    ACWA Power compares 3 bids to supply production units for Luxor power station    What do you know about gold alloying?    Jennifer Lopez evokes Egyptian outrage post her North Coast performance    Cairo's historic Tahrir square to be renovated – PM    Al-Sisi honours Egypt's scholars on Science Day    IS claims responsibility for suicide bombing killing 63 in Afghan wedding    Political parties gear up for parliamentary, senate, local elections    Unprecedented Glory: Egypt win Men's U-19 World Handball Championship    12th National Egyptian Theatre Festival fuel up public theatre art scene    Ministry of Environment has a plan for "black clouds season"    

Thank you for reporting!
This image will be automatically disabled when it gets reported by several people.

Unsustainable approach
Published in Ahram Online on 12 - 06 - 2019

Saudi diplomacy scored three successes in the course of two days in May.The Holy city of Mecca hosted three summits on two days in a row. On 30 May, Mecca saw an Arab emergency summit as well as another summit for the heads of states in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which was attended by Qatar, represented by its prime minister, a first since the eruption of the diplomatic and political crisis in June 2017 that pitted it against the Arab quartet of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt.
The third summit was the 14th Islamic summit of the member countries in the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
The two emergency summits were called by the Saudi government in response for the two attacks against four oil tankers near the coast of the United Arab Emirates in early May as well as two drone attacks against two Saudi pumping stations a few days later.
So far, no one has claimed responsibility, and probably no country or group will ever admit it is behind these attacks.
However, the White House national security adviser, Ambassador John Bolton, said during his visit to the United Arab Emirates last week that Iran is probably responsible in this regard and he said that Tehran used mines to launch this particular attack.
The three summits were unanimous in singling out Iran as the one country responsible for all the mischief in the Middle East, the Gulf and in Yemen.
No one would try to absolve the Iranians from interfering in Arab affairs, nor will anyone try to depict the Iranians as innocent bystanders before serious problems in the region.
However, papering over the role played by other regional powers in meddling overtly and covertly in Arab affairs makes the positions adopted against Iran in the three summits less credible.
Those who gathered in Mecca to discuss and debate the serious and grave questions facing Arab and Muslim countries should have adopted a more rigorous approach towards the role played by Israel and Turkey in Syria, for instance.
It was surprising that the participants condemned what they called Iranian intervention in Syria while ignoring completely the Turkish occupation of northern Syria and its active and blatant support for terrorist groups operating in this part of Syria.
Nor did they call on Israel to respect the sovereignty of Syria by ceasing to launch regular attacks against targets within Syria on the usual pretext that the targets were Iranian or weapon shipments for Hizbullah in Lebanon.
In this respect, it came as no surprise that the Gulf emergency summit has shown full support for American positions and actions against Iran. Maybe it was no coincidence that Ambassador Bolton made an official visit to the United Arab Emirates two days before the two emergency summits in Mecca.
During his stay, he signed a defence cooperation agreement with his Emirati counterpart, Tahnoon Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, on 29 May, between the United States and the United Arab Emirates.
The Mecca summits should have opted for a more independent approach towards Iran instead of aligning with the present American approach vis-à-vis Tehran.
The reason is that the White House is more interested in reaching a long-term modus vivendi with Iran that would guarantee Israeli interests, on the one hand, and prevent the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons anytime in the future.
The question of curbing Iranian missile programmes will be more difficult to negotiate. As things stand now, it is highly doubtful that Tehran would discuss it as long as Israel keeps threatening Iran and Hizbullah in Lebanon.
The other day, the secretary general of Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, warned that in case of war against Iran, the whole Middle East would be on fire, meaning that Israel would come under missile attack, missiles that he claimed in his remarks were lethally perfected.
Hardly anyone predicts a war erupting between Washington and Tehran anytime soon, if ever. When the time comes and the Iranians would be ready to negotiate with the Americans a revised nuclear deal that would meet American conditions, the heightened tension that we have seen last month between the United States will become a distant memory and people would reconsider it for what it really was.
First to pressure Iran to accept the idea of renegotiating the nuclear deal of July 2015, and secondly as an indirect message to the North Koreans that they could face the same military pressures if they fail to denuclearise according to American terms and conditions.
Regardless of the positions adopted in Mecca towards Iran last month, it won't be a bad idea if some Arabs and the Gulf governments keep channels of communication open with Tehran, and most importantly that relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran don't deteriorate further.
In other words, the present tensions with Iran should be contained as much as possible. Most importantly the Iranians should not feel threatened by any Gulf country in case Washington decides to resort to war with Iran in the future, even if it is a distant possibility at present.
If some Arab countries are really serious about curbing Iranian influence in the Middle East, Syria is the place where this strategy could work. Unfortunately, the Mecca summits missed it.
In this respect, Yemen also comes to mind. However, and due to the fact that the United Nations is heavily involved in the Yemeni conflict and succeeded in negotiating the Stockholm Agreement, the top priority should be Syria where the efforts by the United Nations have not been as successful.
To counter Iranian long-term influence in the Middle East, the starting point should be Syria. This is the reason why Arab powers, foremost among which is Saudi Arabia, should get involved once again and work gradually with the Syrians to rebuild mutual confidence and restore trust.
The present Arab approach as far as the situation in Syria is concerned is untenable and unsustainable in the medium and long term. Egypt has an interest in becoming a bridge between Damascus and Riyadh.
It won't be easy, but we should seriously work on it. We can't let Turkey occupy northern Syria with the ultimate aim of annexing certain parts of Syria to Turkey.
This task is all the more urgent in light of a tripartite meeting in Israel during this month that will be attended by the United States and Russia. The aim of this meeting, proposed by the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, is to discuss the security situation in the Middle East, particularly in Syria.
The true Israeli interest is to mobilise full Russian and American support against the long-term entrenchment of Iran in Syria.
If Arab countries, or some of them, seriously want to roll back Iranian influence and its role in the Levant, the starting point is to begin thinking how to re-establish relations and communication with the Syrian government.
Without which, and amid the unconvincing persistence of condemning Iran for its role and presence in Syria, it is doubtful that the Mecca approach in this regard would prove practical, credible, effective or sustainable.
Furthermore, Arab governments should adopt a more offensive approach towards Turkish and Israeli roles in Syria and the larger Middle East.
*The writer is former assistant foreign minister.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 June, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly under the headline: Unsustainable approach

Clic here to read the story from its source.