The Damascus Summit - Only Division and Fragmentation?

[Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University] Amir Kulick - Meetings of the Arab League have become the most important and prestigious inter-Arab institution, a symbolic affirmation of the principle of "Arab unity." Precisely for that reason, the most recent meeting in Damascus was noteworthy for the divisions among League members. 11 of the 22 invitees preferred not to come. There has never been a boycott of heads of so many central Arab states. The Damascus Summit may be best remembered as the most symbolically expressive manifestation of the division of the Arab world into two camps - a pro-Western one led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and an anti-Western one dominated by Iran and Syria and including Hizbullah and Hamas. What is new is that Syria, once the "beating heart" of Arab nationalism, may now be gradually making its way outside the Arab camp, replacing the Arab national identity that the regime of Hafez al-Assad worked so hard to cultivate with a new identity in which the dominant dimension is Shi'ite. If so, then the chances that Damascus will agree to cut off ties with its current allies as part of an overall Israeli-Syrian settlement are quite remote.

2008-04-04 01:00:00

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