Perhaps it’s not for a political reason that the city of Dhahran was intentionally chosen out of 20 Saudi cities to host the Arab League summit but it’s still the geographically closest city facing Iran. Iran was mentioned in the major speeches delivered during the summit, both via coding and direct statements. The meeting’s sponsor, Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz called for a “strong international stance to confront Iran’s behavior in the region,” and reiterated warnings of this “Iranian behavior’s threat.”
Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit reiterated that there’s a need for an Arab stance against Iranian stances. Arab governments have different stances on almost all causes, except the Palestinian cause to some extent. This has been the case of the 37 ordinary and emergency summits held in the past 70 years as Arab states rarely agreed on decisive issues. This is why politicians often formulate general, loose and long statements to bring positions closer.
In his speech to the League’s members, Aboul Gheit proposed a plan to confront the multiple challenges via “a dialogue on the priorities of Arab national security” and noted that “major threats confronting us are equally important and dangerous.” The Arab League secretary general is right to place all important cases in one basket as, for example, Libya’s crisis cannot be viewed as less important than Syria or Yemen.
Threats are common. Bahrain and Lebanon suffered from Iran’s interferences six years ago, and today we can see that Iran’s rifles expanded the scope of their activity towards Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Syria. If some Arab governments do not think Iran’s behavior is a threat, either because they’re geographically far from it or because they have a political consensus with it, the Arab League’s principle of joint defense, and on which the league was established, will have failed.
Unfortunately, our region is still the most troubled region in the world and the one with the most failure in terms of political governanceAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Significance of dialogue
This is the significance of the dialogue which Aboul Gheit called for among the 22 member states on the priorities of the Arab national security and defining major threats.
Member states can adopt different stances that suit them but they are committing a crime against the charter when they’re biased in dangerous causes. Not all countries are expected or required to militarily commit to defend the security of other members states that are at risk but they’re at least expected to harmonize with the conditions of the membership of this club, which is called the Arab League, by committing to a political stance in solidarity. This is the weakest degree of faith.
Major and multiple crises in the region are a real test to relations between member states and a test to the values and efficiency of the Arab League system. It’s nothing new to see it fail at meeting the minimum obligations in terms of the League’s charter which they signed. It’s based on dialogue and a review of these successes and failures that we can see whether there’s hope of treating this sick old League or not.
Unfortunately, our region, the Arab and the Middle Eastern in general, is still the most troubled region in the world and the one with the most failure in terms of political governance. This naturally reflects on and interprets the failure of its organization, i.e. the Arab League. This institution can play an important collective role in confronting crises. If it had done so once and succeeded, it would have managed to establish values for itself and for the member states.
The Arab Dhahran Summit concluded yesterday evening and a new year-long cycle and new attempts will begin and may achieve breakthroughs that instill hope during the upcoming months.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.