Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Rebirth of the anti-Iran Arab front

Nine Arab foreign ministers met in Abu Dhabi on Tuesday, and the host-country foreign minister issued a statement that included this:
We are working to overcome this difficult time in the Arab world and ensure that unwelcomed, non-Arab parties do not get involved in our affairs in an un-constructive manner.
And this:
Our aim is to boost Arab solidarity and mobilize our backing for the Arab Peace Initiative, bolster support for the Palestinian Authority under the leadership of H.E. President Mahmoud Abbas and for the Palestine Liberation Organisation PLO—the sole representative of the Palestinian people.
In a word: These countries, which include Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are embarked on a new or renewed program to close ranks against Iran and Hamas.

Given the fact that this meeting was originally touted as having something to do with reacting to proposals by George Mitchell, you'd think the Western coverage of the event would be very informative, but you'd be wrong--there wasn't any Western coverage. So: Mitchell travels to the region supposedly in search of accomodation among all the parties, and the initial result is an Arab get-together apparently aimed at isolating the resistance and its supporters (Syria itself wasn't invited to the Abu Dhabi meeting).

Qatari paper AlArab had this to say on its front page about the Abu Dhabi meeting, after stressing the part of the communique about "non-Arab" and "unwelcome" "interventions":
Sources that participated in part of the meetings told AlArab that the most important result of the meeting was the assigning to the Emirates of the task of Palestinian reconciliation, since the UAE seems acceptable, given that Hamas and other resistance factions have expressed reservations about the role of Egypt.

And with respect to Iran, the sources said the foreign ministers agreed on a complete action plan--both political and info-media--designed in the first place to toughen their dealings with the Islamic Republic and isolate any moves on its part in the Arab area, including with respect to Palestine. They also decided on a complete media plan to be led by Saudi Arabia and Egypt with their media, especially those in London and Dubai, to launch an attack against Iran and against what is being propagated by AlJazeera, especially with respect to the Iranian role in the region.
The AlArab reporter says authorities in some countries that weren't at the meeting expressed misgivings, and one of them said it appeared the real aim might well be to try and abort the Saudi peace initiative.

Meanwhile, Abdel Bari Atwan in AlQuds alArabi, in an op-ed headed "What are they cooking up in Abu Dhabi" points to the significance of Abu Dhabi as the venue for this new belligerent approach to Iran, being the one country in the region with a territorial dispute with Iran, and he recalls the role of Kuwait in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq.

Countries that weren't invited to the Abu Dhabi meeting included Qatar, Syria, Sudan and Lybia. Countries that were invited but stayed away included Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon and Iraq. Atwan says they probably either recognized the ominous nature of this meeting, or else they are waiting to see which way the wind blows in the wake of the meeting.

It would be interesting to hear something from the Imperial Court in Washington about the relationship of this event, so reminiscent of the glory days of Condoleeza, to the Mitchell visit.


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