We expected the US-sponsored international peace summit in Annapolis, to trigger intra-Arab conflicts as usual.
Interestingly enough, this meeting has healed wounds, some of which have been bleeding for years on various fronts. It is an odd phenomenon that contradicts all possibilities on the table. I have observed the following developments so far:
Jordan has had bad relations with Syria for over four years. These relations have worsened to the extent that the Jordanians presented pictures of weapons and ammunition that had been buried in a cemetery and said that these weapons were sent via the Syrian border and targeted sensitive locations in the capital, Amman. For its part, the Syrian press waged continued campaigns against Jordan under similar titles, such as supporting the US forces in Iraq against what Damascus used to call the honorable Iraqi resistance, as well as Jordan’s stand on Hamas, its position on peace, and other such titles. Yet, unexpectedly, the Jordanian king landed in Damascus and a joint statement that is filled with political wooing was issued, voicing agreement by both sides on everything after they had disagreed on everything.
Syria, which viewed the Annapolis meeting as a dubious plan, is now saying that Arab participation will reinforce the status of Arabs and their position on the number-one Arab cause. Media outlets in Damascus are no longer attacking those participating in the meeting, because its delegation will be present there. Moreover, President Ahmadinejad’s words to Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem that this conference will cause the loss of Palestine were only carried in Iranian media outlets.
As for Hamas, which continued its attack against the Annapolis meeting, and which announced that it was shocked by Arab participation, it made concessions that drew it closer to the PA, its opponent, in Ramallah. A top Hamas official openly said that Hamas is now willing to hand over security to the PA under certain conditions, and this is the main problem that had led to the coup. Hamas leaders have toned down criticism and continued to present new ideas for reconciliation with Mahmud Abbas’s government.
Although the reconciliatory atmosphere has not rendered success in Beirut, where President Emile Lahhud stepped down amid extreme joy, we notice that the situation has not deteriorated as was expected. Lahhud, who had threatened to continue to assume his duties as president if no agreement was reached in naming the new president, left. Lebanese Army Commander General Michel Sulayman proved to be trustworthy. He rejected the opposition’s calls to intervene and take over the country by declaring a state of emergency. It was also rumored that he rejected a proposal by Lahhud to seize power.
Have the winds of Annapolis blown over the region? There is a definite connection between these three cases of reconciliation, rapprochement attempts, and refraining from opening fire, and between the Annapolis conference. The connection lies in the Americans backtracking on their boycott on the Syrians after having considered this boycott a necessity and their pressure on others to boycott Syria a lofty duty. The Americans have backtracked. They sent an invitation [to Syria] and put the issue of the Golan on the agenda–we will not be surprised if they spread out the red carpet for Walid al-Muallem. Had they not done that, the Annapolis meeting would have been an occasion for fiery battles in Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. It was proved that the invitation that was extended to Damascus made Lahhud leave the B’abda Palace at exactly midnight, made Hamas beg for reconciliation, and made the Jordanians fly to Damascus and return home with a promise to release their imprisoned citizens after achieving security cooperation rather than mutual conspiracy.