Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 09:10 | SYDNEY
Sunday 22 Jul 2018 | 09:10 | SYDNEY

The Arab summit as theatre


Rodger Shanahan


27 March 2009 08:53

The communiques that follow the conclusion of the annual Arab Summit are traditionally dryer than Arabian Desert. But then interest in the Summit has rarely been about the issues resolved, because they rarely are resolved. It has been about regional manoeuvrings and the use of a country's level of representation to make political points.

Last year's Damascus summit was a fine example of Arab disunity, with less than half of national leaders attending, but Muammar Ghaddafi returning a bravura performance with his critique of inter-Arab relations. This year, Arab unity appears to be the key theme, although no one should hold their breath that anything as significant as a Palestinian unity government (or substantive moves towards it) will emerge. 

Indeed, in line with previous summits, the guest list threatens to eclipse the agenda, with the hosts inviting Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir to attend even though he has an outstanding arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court for war crimes in Darfur. Some of his country's own clerics have warned him against traveling because he may be arrested. There's confusion as to whether he will appear or not, so the Summit is set for an interesting 'Where's Wally' moment.
Purported plans by Qatar to invite regional badman Iran to the summit also drew opprobrium. The Arab League's Deputy Secretary-General Ahmed bin Hali denied reports that the Iranian president had been invited, while also taking a swipe at Iranian interference in regional affairs, an increasingly popular pastime among Arab 'moderates'. And host Qatar has ruffled some regional feathers, particularly those of Arab heavyweights Egypt and Saudi Arabia, with its support for Hamas and the ill-fated January emergency summit.

With the leadup to this year's summit so interesting, The Interpreter will report back with a wrap-up of the main event next week.

Photo by Flickr user Ammar Abd Rabbo, used under a Creative Commons license.