Three historic summits in Mecca amidst rising tensions with Iran

Prince Turki al-Faisal
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Amid rising regional tensions, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud invited Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and League of Arab States (LAS) leaders for emergency summits in the holy city of Mecca on May 30, to discuss recent “aggressions and their consequences.”

Inasmuch as the Kingdom’s policies were first established by King Abdulaziz bin Abdul Rahman—to coordinate strategies and courses of action with Arab and Muslim allies before confronting challenges that threaten common concerns—the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques revealed how Riyadh intended to address the latest Iranian attacks on Arab interests. He spoke with determination and emulated the founder’s paradigm both to ascertain Riyadh’s will-to-power as well as defy potential foes.


Moreover, rather than embark on half-measures, the monarch wishes to consult with his partners as to the best approaches to enhance regional security and stability, in the aftermath of raids against oil installations inside the Kingdom and commercial ships off the coast of the UAE.

These offensives—including drone strikes by Yemeni Houthi rebels on a Saudi oil pipeline and the synchronized sabotage of four ships off the coast of the UAE —would have required sophisticated preparations necessitating innate military capabilities. Notwithstanding Iran’s denials of responsibility, the assaults demonstrated Tehran’s recklessness, since it was eminently conscious that any strike on oil facilities would trigger universal condemnation and, as necessary, coordinated reactions.

In the past, Iran has threatened to block shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, though fear of a global military clash prevented it from carrying out such ill-placed acts of daring. Still, few doubt that the attacks on Saudi oil installations were Iran’s reactions to the last American-imposed economic sanctions on Tehran, which strangulated the regime and pushed it to take irresponsible steps.

Such moves threaten to drag the region into a new war. As calls for combat gather momentum, King Salman’s offers to discuss sorely needed initiatives to address Iranian interferences in the affairs of the Arab world stand as the ultimate attempt to avoid catastrophe. Consequently, we can assume that the summits will witness frank discussions among allies, precisely to respond in a coordinated fashion to these interferences. The monarch’s approach stands out for its location too, as there is no better place on earth to hold such discussions than in the holy city of Mecca, just a few days before Eid al-Fitr 2019 dawns on the Muslim world.

Of course, while summit leaders are likely to discuss how best to avoid a war, King Salman is equally determined to defend Saudi and Arab interests amid increasing tensions between the US and Iran. In fact, while US President Donald Trump repeated that he was not looking to start a war with Tehran, and while Iranian leaders also dismissed the possibility of war, Riyadh reaffirmed its readiness to defend itself and its interests with all force and determination if Tehran chose warfare.

As the May 30 GCC and LAS gatherings will be followed on May 31 by the 14th Ordinary Session of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) under the theme “Mecca al-Mukarramah Summit: Hand in Hand toward the Future,” it is reasonable to anticipate what might be agreed upon in the 57-nation body. The expected “Mecca Declaration,” along with the Final Communiqué of the OIC, will likely address many current issues that preoccupy the Muslim world.

These include the latest developments in Palestine, the plight of the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar, the growing phenomenon of Islamophobia across the globe, the need to counter terrorism and violent extremism, and a slew of other political, economic, cultural, and social concerns.

Yet what must stand above most of these matters are the questions of security and stability, along with the need to develop unified stances on ongoing developments that affect the Arab and Muslim worlds.

It may thus be fair to surmise that King Salman’s May 30 conclaves aim to find practical solutions to ongoing dilemmas and, towards that end, aspire to resolve critical differences with Gulf, Arab, and Muslim interlocutors. Such summits present golden opportunities to close ranks, coordinate efforts, and preserve the welfare of our nation as we all prepare to celebrate the end of Ramadan.


Prince Turki al-Faisal is one of the founders of the King Faisal Foundation and serves as chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies. Prince Turki has served as ambassador to the United States from July 2005 until 11 December 2006 and as ambassador to the Court of St. James’s.

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