That Mecca Photo-Op
Talk about all roads lead to Mecca. This is BIG. Everyone and his neighbor is there. The Emir of Qatar, Morsi from Egypt, Gul from Turkey, Mahmoud Abbas, Hamid Karzai, Zardari from Pakistan, Marzouki from Tunisia, King Abdullah from Jordan, Ahmadinejad himself. All of the 57 member-states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) – representing no less than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.
Arab News couldn't resist waxing poetically.http://www.arabnews.com/makkah-summit-spreads-message-global-peace What about…
"In Makkah, last night the Holy Kaaba and the Grand Mosque was bathed in bright lights. The giant Clock Tower glowed in green lights on a clear, moonless night. As the muezzin's heart-warming voice reverberated in the mountainous city at Isha, the world's leaders, sitting in the Al-Safa Palace next to the Grand Mosque, repeated Allah-o-Akbar after him."
Right. And then they got to what they do best; squabble among themselves, and suspend Syria from the OIC. Is this the idea of "the Islamic world's respected leader, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah" of how to "unify and strengthen the crisis-riven Muslim world"?
What the "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" seems to have perpetrated is a savvy, DC-style PR coup. He seated Ahmadinejad to his left and the Emir of Qatar to his right. The graphic message; this triumvirate – two Sunni powers, one Shi'ite - is deciding the future of the Middle East.
Not really. My colleague Kaveh Afrasiabi argues http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/NH16Ak03.html that Tehran may have fallen into a trap; they were expecting a real effort of mediation and political dialogue instead of the meeting's priority – to suspend and even expel Syria.
Behind all the syrupy shenanigans, the fact is the House of Saud and Tehran didn't – and couldn't – possibly agree on anything; this is more like a "let's keep talking" – the Mecca version of the US-USSR red telephone. King Abdullah called for "solidarity, tolerance and moderation"; hard to see any of this in the House of Saud – and Qatar - arming runaway gangs and an array of Salafi-jihadis in Syria.
Then the OIC as a whole defends Syria's "unity, sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity" – exactly as the House of Saud and Qatar are doing all they can to undermine all of the above. Here's the OIC as an extension of the GCC. I'm getting echoes that quite a few countries – certainly Indonesia and Malaysia, plus a few Africans – are very unhappy with the whole thing.
The Custodian also wants to set up a "center for dialogue" in Riyadh. The verdict is open whether this center will examine who's really responsible for what is now practically all-out war between Sunnis and Shi'ites. Imagine the center coming to the conclusion that the protests in Bahrain were legitimate; as legitimate as the protests in the eastern province of Saudi Arabia. And as legitimate as what happened in Tahrir Square (remember Saudi horror at the time?)
OK; so at least Iran and the GCC are talking – even if practically at each other's throats. But the House of Saud agenda remains extremely tricky; it may not dream of a smashed Iran, but certainly a weakened Iran, either by years of sanctions or by a potential Israeli attack.
This show is far from over. Up next; Tehran invited King Abdullah for the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit later this month. Let's see whether The House of Saud, the GCC and Iran are really interested in serious talk way beyond a photo-op. There's still no evidence the "leaders" of 1.5 billion Muslims will EVER get their act together
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