The recently concluded Iraq regional conference held in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt started with high expectations: reconciliation between Iraq and her neighbors, debt relief, and the first high level contact between the US Secretary of State and her Syrian and Iranian counterparts.
On all these fronts, it flopped.
Much hype surrounded the 30-minute meeting between Condoleezza Rice and Syrian Foreign Minister Moallem, dubbed by the New York Times as “politically very significant.”
To call it that is a stretch. If a rabid Zionist like Congressman Tom Lantos can meet with President Bashar al-Assad himself as he did several weeks ago, hoopla over the Bush administration’s realization that Syria has a foreign minister with whom to exchange pleasantries seems somewhat misplaced.
More telling though was the absence of any significant contact between Secretary Rice and Iranian Foreign Minister Mottaki. Although reportedly offended by a sleeveless violinist which precluded him from meeting her at dinner, few in the media recognized Mottaki’s excuse for what it was: a well-deserved snub of Rice.
There are still five Iranian diplomats held by the US military in Iraq after all. Can we refer to them as hostages? I assume that’s how the Iranians refer to them, much as Bush did the British sailors. I highly doubt Rice would be in the same room with any Iranian dignitary were the situation reversed.
But there are other reasons why the Iranians have a right to feel miffed.
The Bush administration has bent over backwards to absurdly imply that violence perpetrated by Sunni jihadists against Shia civilians and governmental officials in Iraq leads back to the Iranians, their co-religionists. On April 18th alone, 300 were killed. Near the Imam Hussain and Imam Abbas mosques in Karbala, more than 60 the following week. Are we to believe the Iranians are complicit in violence against people who would be nothing but sympathetic toward them?
Yet the disinformation campaign against Iran (having no logical reason to destabilize the first Shia-run government in an otherwise hostile Arab world) continues.
The lack of significant debt relief provided by the conference’s attendees, most notably those in the Arab world, also came as no surprise.
The tens of billions in debt Iraq incurred was primarily due to the bankrolling of its war against Iran by fellow Arabs states in the 1980s. For Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf nations to now forgive monies used to prevent the Iraqi Shia and Kurds, brutally persecuted by Saddam under the pretext of stemming Iranian influence, from coming to power (and now in power) would be anathema!
Whether it be through a ridiculous propaganda campaign accusing Iran of aiding vehemently anti-Shia group like al-Qaida, provocations such as the arrest of their diplomats, or asserting they are on the brink of arming a nuclear weapon with a mere 100 centrifuges, it is clear the war against Iran is well underway, egged-on by Israel and maintained by the US-subservient Arab dictatorships and monarchies.
The Iraq regional “reconciliation” conference was therefore a predictable failure, ensuring the preservation of the status-quo.
Those who heard the violinist play that evening no doubt heard beautiful music. Others just found maintaining their dignity to be a bit more important.
RANNIE AMIRI is an independent observer and commentator on the Arab and Islamic worlds. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.