Jeddah Summit: A New Stage in the Arab World
In the week following the Jeddah Security and Development Summit, dozens of reports were released in quick succession; some focused on the events, and others assessed its implications. Even the Tehran summit which brought together the Russian, Iranian and Turkish presidents failed to distract from the Jeddah summit which brought together nine Arab states with US President Biden.
The summit is undoubtedly extremely important, as it took place nineteen years after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and more than ten years after former US President Barack Obama announced a change in policy American in the Middle East, in particular vis-à-vis the Arab countries.
The Americans’ strategic withdrawal from the region, which saw the United States take over from Britain and France, had political and military implications. The Americans – or so they saw it – appointed Israel, Iran and Turkey to replace them in the Arab world. The Arabs were not only broke because of the invasion of Iraq and the complete cession of the country to Iran, but also because of the massive divisions resulting from the events of the so-called spring – which nobody left called Arab – who undermined the cohesion of the regimes of the Levant.
Although the nuclear deal with Iran signed in 2015 seemed to underline the status quo that the Americans wanted for the regime, President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement did not lead to significant changes because the withdrawal American military continued and the United States did not change the way it conducted itself militarily on land or in the seas and skies under his tenure.
Pursuing this withdrawal approach and despising Arabs was evident during Biden’s presidential campaign, indeed, in his insistence that Trump had made a huge mistake in withdrawing from the deal. This impression has become a reality for Iranians and Turks. The Iranians didn’t seem too eager to return to the deal or improve ties with their Arab neighbors, and the Turks followed suit with the Iranians, carving out spheres of influence in Syria, Iraq and Libya’s eastern Mediterranean. . Russia has not been shy about intervening in Syria after it was widely assumed that its ambitions went no further than reclaiming parts of the former Soviet Union.
Why has all this happened in the past five years? Neither the Gulf States nor Egypt have failed in their efforts to restore stability and accelerate development. However, no comprehensive initiative for effective joint Arab action has emerged on two issues: strategic security on land and at sea, and the restoration of control in the five Arab countries in turmoil, with their territory divided between the intervening parties that the United States have designated to succeed each other. to them or to them, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Libya and Yemen!
During the Jeddah summit, the Saudi foreign minister recalled that five years ago the Saudi crown prince proposed an Arab initiative for security and defence. Yes, the Arab countries of the Levant have been attacked by the countries of the region and certain international powers. Once again, the three powerful Arab states of the Levant, namely the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Arab Republic of Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, have refused to acquiesce to the regional aggression and the situation resulting from the caused the United States to turn its back on them. Instead, while continuing to make massive leaps in development, they all tried to widen their options by opening up to China, Russia and India. However, each of them did it separately.
The point I want to make, an issue we had noticed before the summit and in its implications for Saudi-American relations and Arab-American relations more broadly, is this: we have witnessed and are witnessing the emergence of a new Arabism than most of the countries under which the Levant works. It is a security (and defence) and development project, which has manifested itself and is manifesting itself in a shared vision on the following subjects:
First – the Arabs share a unique destiny; President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called it “Arab security”. Making great progress in the Arab world is the very essence of this project. This time, that progress is envisioned through interdependence, working together to safeguard security and cooperating to secure development through integration and cooperation.
Second – the nine countries must cooperate to deal with the problems in Palestine, Syria, Libya, Lebanon and Iraq, whose Prime Minister had the courage to join this project, and his country will be connected to the electricity grid via Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Third – that the nine Arab countries (and those who will join them) are originally allies of the United States. However, the United States (whose president has admitted to making mistakes and committing sins) has sometimes turned its back on them and is going through a phase of what is called creative chaos. The superpowers cannot be the ones who spread chaos, nor allow it to spread. And the Arabs, despite all that has happened, are ready to cooperate with the United States on massive development projects and to build the future together. We are ready and rather need to cooperate with the United States to ensure the success of this immense development and humanitarian project, and solidify security and stability, and develop our land, air and sea defenses.
In return, we must work with the United States to ensure energy security and restore global financial and economic stability. However, the Arab countries, or some of them, have opened up to other powers and have pursued alternative strategies (including some military ones) that they are not ready to let go of, not only because they facilitate progress and development, but also because of their importance for strategic security. They don’t need an Arab NATO or to normalize and create partnerships with Israel. On the other hand, they don’t want war either, and so they don’t want or need to join an axis led by the US or anyone else.
Fourth – All Arabs want their region to be safe and free from weapons of mass destruction and therefore do not oppose a return to the nuclear deal. They are, however, troubled by Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region – its reliance on ballistic missiles, drones and militias. Yet Iran is a neighbour, and they yearn to establish positive relations with it and will continue to negotiate with it to that end. And the Emiratis want to send an ambassador to the country. Their condition for doing so has always been that Iran respects the sovereignty of countries and refrains from interfering in their internal affairs.
Fifthly – the Arabs pursue their global development project, which aims to benefit their people and the world. They are now beginning to get involved in solving global energy and food security issues, helping the world overcome inflation and making major investments. However, they are not prepared to take “blood tests” to examine their human rights record or the rights of their citizens (!), whether administered by the United States or whoever either else. Those who have only one eye should not put a knife in front of others. We have our values, our traditions, our customs and our sovereignty, and we will not allow them to be undermined for any reason.
The crucial aspect of all that has happened is that a new Arab scene is taking shape – a new Arab project for sound and healthy relations, not only with the United States but with the whole world. President Biden’s visit was neither a success nor a failure; its results depend on how things turn out. However, one achievement of which we can be sure is this crystallization of an Arab renaissance project.
Those looking for other indications than the summit declaration need look no further than President Emarati’s visit to France, which took place immediately after the Jeddah summit. The Arabs don’t want to scare the world, nor are they afraid of it. On the contrary, everyone wants to participate competently and courageously in the security, progress and openness of our world. The Jeddah summit announced its intention to do just that.