Qatar sends its prime minister to Mecca, two years after the boycott prompted by Saudis and Emiratis.
Mecca gathers from this Thursday until next Saturday the Heads of State or Government of the Arab and Islamic countries in three summits with a single objective: to isolate Iran. Just on the eve of the 14th annual meeting of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Friday, King Salmán of Saudi Arabia, the host, has convened two extraordinary sessions of the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Formally, Riad seeks to reaffirm its leadership and join ranks after the recent attacks against oil targets in its territory and in the waters of the United Arab Emirates, of which it holds its rival responsible.
Summits against Iran
The tone of the triple date, which has forced to close six major avenues of the holy city of Islam, was marked last night with the statements of the Saudi Foreign Minister. Ibrahim al Asaf called on his OIC counterparts to reject “Iran’s interference in the region,” as reported in the local press.
The Islamic Republic and Saudi Arabia compete for political leadership in the Middle East, and the Islamic world in general, manipulating not only historical rivalries, but religious differences; While Tehran arrogates to Shia Islam, Riyadh is the head of the majority Sunni branch. Hence, the high symbolic value of the calls in Mecca. The moment also coincides with an escalation of tension between Washington and Tehran, described as psychological warfare by many observers, but which has led to military reinforcement in the area.
The Kingdom of the Desert has the backing of the United States, whose National Security Adviser, John Bolton, has accused Iran of sabotage of the four oil tankers and the drone attack on the Saudi pipeline. However, it is not so clear that the response of the participants in the three summits will be unanimous given the divisions that exist within it.
The Arab League has been unable in its 74-year history to find a solution to the Palestinian problem. In addition, its 22 members are today divided by the wars of Syria, Libya and Yemen, and paralyzed before the political changes demanded by the citizens of Algeria and Sudan. Most of its summits are closed with declarations of intent with few practical consequences , often after having highlighted the differences among its members. The celebration of the meeting in Mecca, a city banned from non-Muslims, prevents the assistance of the president of Lebanon, the Christian Michel Aoun, although he is probably represented by his prime minister, Saad Hariri, who also has Saudi nationality.
As for the CCG, the block created in 1981 to promote the security and economic cooperation of the six riverside monarchies of the Persian Gulf in the face of fears that triggered the triumph of the Iranian revolution, was mortally wounded after the blockade of Qatar promoted by Arabia Saudí and UAE in June 2017. However, its members have maintained the forms and who receives the appointment can not fail to send the corresponding invitation to all members. Doha has sent the three summits of Mecca to its prime minister, Sheikh Abdallah bin Naser al Thani, the highest participation in these two years, which has sparked speculation about a possible rapprochement.
But who will have it more difficult when the leaders meet, after the break of the Ramadan fast, will be the Iranian representative to the OIC summit. The Islamic Republic is one of the 57 members of that organization, but given the animosity that exists between Tehran and Riyadh, it has only sent a general director, Reza Najafi, to the meeting. His foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, has preferred to stay at home after his proposal for a non-aggression pact with his Arab neighbors in the Gulf has fallen, once again, into disrepair.
“No, Mr. Zarif. We do not buy his good neighbor pose, “he was replying on Tuesday to the Dubai Gulf News newspaper , in an editorial that usually has state approval in the UAE.
Even so, not all participants in the summits support the anti-Iran front. Significantly, Iraq, Oman, and Qatar, which have good relations with both Washington and Tehran, have offered to mediate the crisis. In addition, Kuwait, within the GCC as Oman and Qatar, has also been critical of the policies of confrontation promoted by Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, and defended dialogue as the only way to overcome differences in the region.