It is customary for the country hosting the Arab summit to exert all its efforts to create a climate leading to the success of the summiteers both in raising topics and in receiving the member states. This is true of all summits except for the upcoming Damascus summit. The issue of the summit is a story that is indeed worth narrating.
Even before the invitations were sent out, the summit turned into a crisis when Syrian Vice President Faruq al-Sharah openly threatened the Arab countries that “anyone that does not attend will regret it”. These are words that have never been uttered by a host in the history of conferences in the world! After intimidation, the next step was the imposition of the topics. In spite of the conviction of almost all the countries, Damascus issued a number of statements that said that Lebanon will not be the main topic. The tension in Lebanon requires that this issue be placed on top of the agenda for debate. After all, the Arab League Secretary General has devoted all his time to resolve this crisis since the beginning of the year. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallim retorted that there are other issues that are more important than Lebanon. And suddenly, Hamas needed to satisfy its appetite and began to fire rockets at Israel and thus created the suitable atmosphere for the statement of Minister Al-Muallim with Israel’s devastating retaliation against Gaza.
Everybody had hoped that Syria would benefit from the first summit on its soil with a reconciliatory step that would at least strengthen the Lebanese situation in the issue of appointing General Michel Suleiman as the agreed-upon president. He was nominated by the minority, Syria’s allies, and was accepted by the majority. The surprise was that Syria’s allies abandoned their nominee, hoping perhaps to prolong the crisis. Syria does not have a justifiable pretext. In the field, it is now in control of the current situation through its allies in the minority. Please note that they are a minority that has the presidency of the republic and the chairmanship of the Chamber of Deputies and they have paralyzed the powers of the prime minister by imposing the principle of the obstructive third. In other words, Syria, by proxy, controls the three powers. Despite this, it has turned down the idea of facilitating handing over the presidency to Michel Suleiman during the period of the summit and thus defusing the tension.
The summit seemed strange starting with Al-Sharah’s threat to the Arab countries and ending with the obstruction of the chance to resolve the Lebanese problem. However, what is even stranger is the way that the leaders were invited to the summit. Do you know how the Syrian leadership extended its invitation to Saudi Arabia? The invitation was sent with the chairman of the Syrian Red Crescent Society in a glaring insult to the Saudis. Syria thus wanted to drive Saudi Arabia to boycott the summit. However, Saudi Arabia decided to send its ambassador at the Arab League in order to prevent an Arab division due to the summit of insults. Syria, we are sorry to say, does not believe in the concept of positive concessions which is the consistent norm in mending Arab relations although it is the host. Over the past three difficult years, it has been imposing its opinion, stands, and alliances using all means. Today, it wants the summit to be a picture of a Syrian victory more than a gathering for Arab reconciliation.