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Assessing the Landscape: Analyzing the Islamic-Arab Summit in Riyadh

In a landmark event that reverberated across geopolitical landscapes, the joint summit of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Riyadh brought together leaders from 57 predominantly Muslim nations. The focal point of this summit was the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas, against the backdrop of the Hamas-Israel war that commenced on October 7.

Unanimous Condemnation and Fundamental Rifts

The summit was unanimous in its condemnation of Israel, rejecting claims of “self-defense” and urging the United Nations Security Council to adopt a “decisive and binding resolution” against Israel’s perceived aggression. However, beneath this apparent unity, fundamental rifts emerged, particularly between Iran and the Arab world concerning the issue of ‘Palestine.’

Riyadh’s Strategic Pivot

Riyadh initially planned two separate extraordinary summits but eventually merged the Arab League and OIC gatherings. This decision, according to Arab diplomats, arose from the failure to reach a consensus on a final statement. Notably, the summit marked a historic moment with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s visit to Saudi Arabia, the first by an Islamic Republic head of state in over a decade.

Diverging Perspectives on Practical Measures

While the summit denounced Israeli actions in Gaza, practical measures advocated by Iran, including punitive economic and political steps against Israel, found no place in the final communique. The rejection underscored the regional divisions on how to respond to the conflict, with concerns escalating about its potential spillover into other nations.

The Iran Factor: Nudging Conflict for Geopolitical Ends

Amidst the complexities, a prevailing belief suggests that Iran, opposed to warming ties between Israel and the Arab world, played a role in instigating the conflict. Speculation revolves around Iran providing substantial financial support and logistical aid to Hamas, aiming to disrupt the peace process initiated with the 2020 Abraham Accords.

Escalation and Regional Implications

Hamas’s attack on October 7 resulted in significant casualties, with over 1,200 mostly civilians killed and 240 taken as hostages. Israel’s month-long offensive aimed at uprooting Hamas, conducted amid the civilian population, raised concerns about the war’s increasing brutality. Iran, while not directly involved, witnessed its proxy forces launching attacks against U.S. forces in the region.

Summit Resolutions and Regional Divides

The Riyadh summit called for an end to weapons sales to Israel and rejected any political resolution maintaining Gaza’s separation from the West Bank. However, a call to sever established ties with Israel, led by Algeria and supported by Iran, faced resistance from the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, signatories of the 2020 Abraham Accords.

Points of Contentious Dialogue

Another point of contention centered on Iran’s proposal to designate the Israeli army a “terrorist organization.” This proposal, aimed at condemning Israel’s conduct in Gaza, highlighted the differing perspectives within the summit. Additionally, the debate over the two-state solution emphasized disparities, with Arab nations advocating based on the 1967 borders and Iran rejecting the existence of a Jewish state altogether.

Tehran’s Post-Summit Stance

Post-summit, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi reiterated the regime’s views, emphasizing reservations on the final statement. The Iranian Foreign Ministry formally conveyed these reservations, questioning the summit’s outcomes and signaling potential challenges in diplomatic efforts moving forward.

Dissent within Palestinian Ranks

The Islamic Jihad, another Iran-backed Palestinian militant group, distanced itself from the summit’s position. Claiming abandonment of the duty to defend Arab and Islamic national security, this dissent within Palestinian factions further underscores the complexities surrounding regional unity.

Conclusion: Prospects for Peace Amidst Discord

In the aftermath of this significant summit, a critical question looms: Can peace be a possibility as long as the Islamic Republic persists in sowing discord and opposing diplomatic engagement with Israel? The challenge of finding common ground persists, with regional dynamics and conflicting interests shaping the path forward.

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