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What Can Soleimani Conclude from the 3 Summits?

What Can Soleimani Conclude from the 3 Summits?

Monday, 3 June, 2019 - 07:30
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper
It is likely that senior Iranian officials watch Al-Arabiya television at their offices, just to “know their enemy.” They must have watched the extraordinary developments. The three successive summits that were held in Makkah during the final ten days of Ramadan. Two emergency summits: One Gulf, one Arab, followed by a regular Islamic summit.

The symbolism of the venue is not lost on the viewer and its importance to Muslims. The occasion is also not lost on the viewers given the major crisis in the region where economic and political pressures collide with military measures that were provoked by attacks. Examination of the rockets used in the assaults reveals who manufactured them, even though they were fired by proxies.

It is natural for the series of summits to capture the attention of the Supreme Leader and commander of the Quds Force. The Iranian behavior was the primary reason why the two emergency summits were held. The behavior also cast its heavy shadow on the third summit. Perhaps the very fact that the three summits were held sends a clear message that the current crisis in the Gulf cannot be simply described as an American-Iranian standoff because the problem first started with and still centers on the deterioration of relations between Iran and its neighbors. This does not negate the importance of the Iranian-American dispute, but it is not the only problem in the crisis. Tehran has always sought to imply that its problem with the Gulf states was a result of its dispute with the “Great Satan.” This is not true, however, because for four decades Iran has committed itself to exporting the revolution and meddling in the affairs of others, thereby obstructing all opportunities to normalize relations with the Gulf states, starting with Saudi Arabia.

It is natural for General Qassem Soleimani to watch the images from Makkah. The Gulf Cooperation Council, which was formed in the early 1980s in wake of the Iraqi-Iranian war, is still holding on to its unity, despite attempts to undermine it and some internal crises. What set this summit apart was its clear and open accusation and stance because the situation can no longer support generalities and vague positions. Even though it was normal for the GCC summit to condemn the Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and sabotage off the UAE territorial waters, the message to Iran was very frank and clear.

Its communique held Iran responsible for the policy of destabilizing the region, arming militias and stoking sectarian conflicts. It demanded the international community to assume its responsibilities towards Iran’s regional behavior and nuclear and ballistic ambitions. The summit clearly announced its support for the American strategy on Iran and at the same time the gatherers underscored the unity of the GCC member states in confronting Tehran’s threats. This was in line with the opening remarks by Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman bin Abdulaziz, who stressed the importance of taking a deterrent and firm stance to confront Iran’s destabilizing actions.

Soleimani watched as Arab leaders flocked to the summit hall. Iran’s infiltration of four Arab countries has not altered the overwhelming majority of Arab stances. Yemen was present through its internationally-recognized legitimate government. Lebanon was represented by its Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Syria was absent. Iraq was represented by its President Barham Salih, whose reservations on the summit communique was not unusual given the balance of power in his country.

The Arab summit was no less clear than the Gulf one. It underlined the solidarity of Arab countries against Iran’s direct and indirect meddling in their internal affairs. It called on the international community to take a firm stance against Iran’s violation of its stability of its neighbors and threat to energy supplies and marine navigation, both directly or through its proxies. It stressed Saudi Arabia’s right to defend its territories according to the United Nations charter and voiced its support to the measures it takes to counter violations through internationally recognized means.

The two summits were followed with the Makkah declaration at the Islamic summit that condemned the terrorist attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Another issue caught Soleimani’s attention: Saudi Arabia and the gatherers’ commitments to recognized means in dealing with the Palestinian cause. The most significant of which was their announcement that any just peace must preserve the identity of Jerusalem and the Palestinian right to establish their own independent state according to the Arab peace initiative. This is very significant, especially in wake of all the talk about he so-called “deal of the century” that is being promoted by the Trump administration.

What can Soleimani conclude by watching the Makkah summits? Can he conclude that his country really needs a long-term truce with the “Great Satan” in order for it to take in the gains it made in the region, especially after the developments in Yemen revealed Saudi Arabia’s insistence against giving into the policy of proxies? Will this lead to a conclusion to achieve what has been whispered among diplomatic circles that Tehran will inform the Japanese prime minister, who will visit it later this month, that it was ready to show some flexibility in the nuclear and ballistic files in order to end the biting sanctions? It was reported that this message would be delivered to the participants at the G20 summit that will be hosted by Osaka at the end of June.

Will Soleimani stop at the Makkah summits’ demonstration of Saudi Arabia’s weight in the Gulf, Arab and Islamic worlds? This political and economic weight on the regional and international scenes will only grow with the policy of reform and openness driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Will Soleimani be convinced that Saudi Arabia enjoys geographic clout that cannot be ignored and that the solution lies in extending a hand to it and easing the revolutionary rhetoric in favor of improving neighborly ties? Will he remember that Iran signed a truce with Barack Obama and neglected its neighbors, then to realize that the American president changed and Washington’s policy would not have shifted so much had it enjoyed normal relations with its neighbors?

The Iranian revolution turned 40 and the Iranians need to reflect on themselves. Iran cannot endlessly continue to be the source of tensions near oil wells and strategic straits. The three summits reflected the participants’ longing for a moment to catch their breath in order to dedicate themselves to development and join the scientific and technological revolutions that have become an integral part of daily life. It is likely that the Iranian people do not want to endlessly live on the hot plate.

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