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March 05, 2003

Neighbors - The waning of the `Arab nation'

IMRA posts this interesting piece which suggests the dissolution of Arab unity rather than its solidification. And provides some clever and funny remarks at the same time
But it wasn't only demonstrators that induced President Hosni Mubarak tomove the summit to a distant location. About a month ago, when he was askedabout the need for an emergency meeting of the Arab League,he replied offthe cuff, "I want to ask you what an Arab summit can do against the problem
that exists between Iraq and the United States." When a journalist suggested - at a press conference with Mubarak - that the Arab states could invoke the oil weapon, the president retorted angrily, "Do you want the Gulf
states to stop the flow of oil? Did Saddam Hussein consult with the Arab states when he invaded Iran? Did he consult with them when he invaded Kuwait? The Arab states paid Saddam $60 billion and assisted him in the war against Iran. Then he invaded Kuwait and split the country in two. He attacked the American forces, and his policy brought about the largest American presence in the history of the region."

A fiasco foretold

A month later, though, it was Mubarak who initiated the summit, and from theoutset there were signs of the looming fiasco. At first, it wasn't entirelyclear that the Arab leaders were willing to attend. The Saudi foreign minister said two weeks ago that there was no reason for a summit, Libyastated that it would absent itself, Jordan didn't understand what there was to discuss. Others had their own agenda: Kuwait saw the meeting as an opportunity to play up the Iraqi threat to its integrity, and Syria wanted to use the platform to assert its firm opposition to a war and its demand not to allow American forces to use Arab countries as staging bases. These disagreements were a rebuke to Mubarak, as the possibility loomed that no one would show up or that the meeting would lurch out of Egypt's control.

Finally, the parties agreed to meet on March 1, so as not to create a precedent of failing to accede to the Egyptian president's call.

As usual, the Arab foreign ministers met first, to prepare the resolutions that would be adopted and to reexamine, after only 10 days, whether the disagreements remained. It turned out that nothing had changed. ... Egypt
proposed sending a high-level delegation to Baghdad, Washington and the European capitals, but Iraq rejected this, saying it would be "intervention in Iraq's internal affairs." Kuwait wanted to unite the clauses of the resolutions on Iraq to create a connection between opposition to a war against Iraq and a new policy that Iraq would be called upon to adopt
vis-?-vis Kuwait. That was opposed by the foreign ministers of Syria, Iraq and Egypt, who stated that the "Iraqi question" was more important and merited a separate clause in the resolutions. After this was agreed on, Kuwait asked that the clause on Iraqi policy toward Kuwait precede theclause of opposition to a war . ...

"If the foreign ministers are unable to agree on these minor issues, how will they agree on the big questions ? ... an Egyptian commentator ...after the summit resolutions were made public. "A summit of this kind is an affront to the Arab leaders and to Egypt, the host. It would have been better if it had not taken place. I am sorry that President Mubarak was
belittled at such a meeting."[more]