Riyadh summit from expectations to reality

In the past few days we witnessed the holding of an extraordinary summit of Islamic countries in Riyadh. As Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah emphasized in his recent speech the Palestinians especially the people of Gaza had hoped for this summit.
15 November 2023
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Mohammad Mehdi Mazaheri

In the past few days, we witnessed the holding of an extraordinary summit of Islamic countries in Riyadh. As Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah emphasized in his recent speech, the Palestinians, especially the people of Gaza, had hoped for this summit. It was expected that at the end of it, we would see a collective, serious, and deterrent decision by the Islamic countries. In a message to the extraordinary summit of heads of Arab and Islamic countries in the capital of Saudi Arabia, the Islamic resistance movement (Hamas) asked them to make a historic and fateful decision and to send food and water, medical items, and fuel to Gaza and improve the condition of hospitals in this region, use all the levers of their Arab and Islamic power and put pressure on America as the main supporter of the Zionist regime.

However, unfortunately, these expectations were not met. The participants of this summit only issued a statement condemning the attacks and war crimes of the Zionist regime against the people of Gaza and demanding an immediate end to the war, breaking the siege of Gaza and sending Arab-Islamic humanitarian aid convoys and international to this region. Although the members participating in this summit asked the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to start an immediate investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Zionist regime throughout the occupied Palestinian territories, including East Jerusalem, they did not conclude to impose any sanctions or other common threats.

Of course, the positions and words of the presidents and other senior officials participating in this summit were relatively consistent and firm. Still, in the end, it did not lead to a tangible and effective achievement that could turn the tide of the war in Gaza. The question is why and how is it that the Islamic countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, in which influential regional powers such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Qatar, Indonesia, and Malaysia are members, cannot come to a decision to resolve and end the disaster in Gaza, which was carried out by the Zionist regime and with the direct support of the United States?!

The primary answer is probably the different and even contradictory political interests and goals of the members of this organization. Although the member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have powerful pressure levers such as economic sanctions and energy sanctions due to their huge population and rich energy resources, their future political prospects in the international and regional arenas are not the same.

 While countries such as Iran and Syria want to strengthen the resistance front in the region, and the destruction of the Zionist regime, the formation of an independent Palestinian state, and the withdrawal of America from the region are among their goals, most of the Arab countries, and course, Turkey to some extent, are afraid of the resistance front gaining power and not seeing it in line with their interests and security, and they support the two-state solution. In addition, none of them want the destruction of the Zionist regime and the complete withdrawal of America from the region. As a result, it is due to such contradictory goals. It approaches that successive summits are held from Cairo to Riyadh. Still, it does not reach a tangible result, and it does not solve the problem of the people of Gaza.

Another reason for the inconclusiveness of the summit of the Islamic countries is the difference in their approach to the Abraham Accords and political reconciliation with the Zionist regime. While Iran and other members of the resistance front consider the normalization of relations with the Zionist regime as a betrayal of the Palestinian cause and the reason for the excesses of the Zionist regime in recent years, the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf do not want to destroy all the bridges behind them in the face of this war and make their relations with America and even the Zionist regime completely dark. As a result, they have adopted a bilateral policy and try not to exceed the limits of rhetoric and fiery speeches. Their presence and role-playing in various Arab-Islamic summits are also for the purpose of maintaining their credibility in the domestic and international arena and not being stigmatized as indifferent. Still, at the same time, they avoid adopting any policy or decision that will put America and the Zionist regime under serious pressure and negatively affect future relations with them.

In such a situation, it should be said that although the attack of Hamas on October 7 against the Zionist regime and the start of the bloody war in Gaza delayed the process of political reconciliation and the improvement and development of relations between some Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, with the Zionist regime. It is expected that due to the criminal and anti-human approach of this regime in the Gaza war and its attack on medical centers, children, and women, in the near future, we will see the continuation of the growing hatred of the Arab nations toward the Zionist regime and the failure to provide the conditions for reconciliation between the Arabs and the Zionist regime, the approach of Arab and Islamic countries in the recent summit in Riyadh showed that this policy will not continue.

The inconclusive end of the Riyadh summit and the lack of agreement of the participating Islamic countries to implement strict decisions and serious sanctions against the Zionist regime and the United States indicate that these countries still have plans for the future of their relations with the Zionist regime. The authorities of these countries may not seek to normalize relations with such a child-killing regime in the short term in order to calm the wounded public opinion of Islamic nations. Still, their long-term policy is definitely something else.

In other words, the main activity of the regional powers to play a role in the Gaza crisis is not done in these joint summits. This organization and the group of Islamic countries have never been their main and final point of support. The main movements of these countries take place in behind-the-scenes agreements and secret bilateral and multilateral consultations, where media and global public opinion are not present, and anything can be bought and sold. In this position, the Arab statesmen are trying to ensure the continuation of the relationship, the development of investment, and, of course, political reconciliation with the Zionist regime at the cost of getting some concessions in the current war.

Based on this, the Islamic Republic of Iran, as an influential regional power and, of course, opposed to the Abraham Accords, should seek to exert influence and pressure on the Arab countries of the Gulf Persian in order to help end the Gaza war and increase the cost of inaction in the face of the Zionist regime's crimes, and encourage them to play on the common context. In the current situation, the strong incitement of global public opinion against the anti-human actions of the Zionist regime in Gaza has created a suitable environment for Iran to act in this field; therefore, by taking advantage of this situation and, of course, using the potential of political reconciliation with Saudi Arabia, efforts should be made to force the influential countries of the region and the Islamic world to take more serious actions in parallel and aligned with the resistance front.

Mohammad Mehdi Mazaheri, university professor

 (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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