By Abdulrahman al-Rashed
24 March 2014
Five years ago, a battle of axes escalated as a result of the Saudi-Egyptian rapprochement on one side and the Qatari-Syrian rapprochement on another.
At the time and just as Kuwait was about to hold an Arab summit, Doha insisted to hold a rival Arab political summit, claiming that it was doing this in a bid to support the resistance in Gaza. As such, a competition between the two Arab Gulf capitals was ignited to host two summits which are only a few days apart.
Most Arab countries saw that the Doha summit for what it was, an initiative designed to sabotage the Kuwait summit which was to be held a few days later.
Anyway, the tale of these two summits is a long one; so I'll summarize it by saying that only six leaders, most of whom were the region's villains, attended the Doha summit.
Among the attendees were Syria's president Bashar al-Assad, Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir and Mauritania's coup d'etat leader General Wald bin Abdulaziz. However, the biggest shock lied in inviting Iran to attend. By all means, Doha failed to secure the necessary attendance and the summit was nothing more than a televised seminar.
In Kuwait, however, the summit convened amid the presence of all its stars. Everyone attended it amid the excitement of watching one of the most important political battles at the time. A surprise was revealed in the speech of Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdelaziz, who for the sake of ending disputes and instead of confrontations, he offered reconciliation with Assad, Muammar Qaddafi and the rest.
King Abdullah’s approach even contradicted what ally Hosni Mubarak, the then-Egyptian president, who had warned Assad of the consequences of going far in his actions.
To trigger the Saudi initiative and seal the reconciliation, Kuwait's Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad went with five leaders, including Assad and Qatar's Emir, to the hospitality villa where King Abdullah was. But the King’s attempts were gone with the wind a few weeks later as Assad and his allies continued to stir problems in Lebanon and the region.
As for this year's Arab League summit, it will also be held in Kuwait amidst an atmosphere of disputes that are greater than those which engulfed the previous summit held there. Truth is, we don't expect much from it because accepting invitations is not enough for it to succeed. There must be true intentions and willingness to make sacrifices. So are Arabs prepared to confront the ongoing massacre in Syria? Is Qatar ready to give up the chaos-funding policy it has adopted for over a decade and a half now? And Is (Iraq’s) Maliki's government ready to join the league of moderate states or will it continue to deviate more towards Iran?
The battles are still raging so I think it's highly unlikely that any surprises are going to occur in Kuwait - unlike the 2009 summit when King Abdullah’s speech included important retreats done in everyone's favor.
So, what could happen during this time? We won't be hearing a speech from Assad in which he announces letting go of power and ending the Syrian massacre. It's also unlikely that Doha will give up its support of groups that are against Saudi Arabia, the U.A.E., Bahrain, Egypt and Yemen or that it give up favoring one group over another in in Tunisia, Libya or other countries.
If Kuwait's lights doesn’t brighten the summit's atmosphere this time, there must come a day when the sun rises to end the crises which haven't stopped in our region since establishing the modern Arab states. All what's left for us to do is to be optimistic that this day will come when efforts are made and funds are spent to develop and improve the region, marking the end of the crises phase once and for all.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.