DUBAI/KUWAIT — Rifts over foreign policy will likely make it harder for Arab leaders meeting at a summit this week to forge a common stand on regional challenges, including what many of them see as a threat from Iranian-U.S. rapprochement.
While the Arab League meeting may agree more humanitarian action in response to Syria’s war, any communique calling for the removal of President Bashar al-Assad will not reflect divergent views behind the scenes about the Syrian leader’s handling of the conflict.
Syria and Iran are not points of contention for the annual summit, scheduled to take place in Kuwait on March 25-26.
The meeting follows an unprecedented row among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) alliance of Gulf Arab states over support for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and a verbal spat between Iraq and Saudi Arabia over violence in Iraq’s Anbar province.
Ebtisam al-Qitbi, a professor of political science at Emirates University in the United Arab Emirates:
“No summit has been without differences, but this one is full of differences. It is distinguished by the intensity of these disputes which puts an extra burden on the host country.
It will definitely make it more difficult to focus on coming out with adequate restrictions, not to mention an agreement on anything.”
Iraq Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari to reporters in Kuwait:
“The Kuwaiti host in fact has smoothed relations. There were no tensions between the delegates who were present.”
Arab summits have long been dominated by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a topic on which most Arab states share a common view. But the “Arab Spring” uprisings that began in 2011 have polarized te region.
Syria’s war echoes strains between Sunni Muslims, notably in the Gulf, and Shi’ites in Iraq, Lebanon and Iran, whose faith is related to that of Assad’s Alawite minority.