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Friday, April 12, 2024

GCC leaders should not attend NAM Summit

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor


Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad isn’t lacking audacity. He has extended invitations to GCC leaders to attend the 16th Non–Aligned Movement’s (NAM) Summit, scheduled to be held in Tehran from August 26 – 31. For a number of reasons, it is my hope that GCC leaders not only politely decline but also decide not to send even a low-level representative in their stead.

Let’s not keep up the charade any longer. It’s no secret there’s no love lost between GCC countries and the Islamic Republic of Iran when Tehran is behind the Shiite uprising in Bahrain on which it has made territorial claims in the past. Iran’s President has been lambasting Saudi Arabia on various issues and recently rubbed salt in the UAE’s wound over his country’s occupation of UAE-owned islands by making a provocative visit to the smallest island Abu Musa that was vehemently condemned by Abu Dhabi, Riyadh, and Manama. The UAE recalled its ambassador from Tehran over that incident. Instead of inviting our leaders to the NAM Summit, if the Iranian government wants to mend fences it should immediately return our islands, stolen by the Shah in 1970s.

Firstly, the differences between the GCC and Iran go much deeper than that. Gulf Arabs do not appreciate that Iraq has been virtually turned into an Iranian satellite or that non-state actors are ruling Lebanon at Tehran’s behest using Iranian cash and weapons to do so.

Moreover, the Iranians are currently using their wealth to court Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood dominating parliament into their camp, which, in the worst case scenario, could ensure that Cairo never regains its status as an Arab world leader; on the contrary it would become an object of suspicion for Western powers which would waste little time placing Egypt on their hit lists.

So why keep up the buddy-buddy pretence with Tehran? Iran is no friend of ours and we should not be afraid to admit it or take a stand for what we believe is right. Our leaders should refrain from sitting at the same table with those working against us or shaking hands with people whose own are soiled.

Secondly, Iran, along with Russia and China, is staunchly defending the Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad whose army has been slaughtering, dismembering and torturing Syrian men, women and young children for over a year. Everyone’s seen horrific pictures of the ongoing destruction and carnage and GCC member states are rightly united in the wish to take action to stop this humanitarian tragedy by any means – or support action, approved by the Arab League and the United Nations.

It goes without saying that President Al- Assad has also received an invite to the NAM Summit, which is another reason Gulf leaders should think twice before attending. Photo-ops of our heads of state with the blood-stained Syrian dictator – or their envoys for that matter - would send the wrong message to our peoples and the world.

Thirdly, I’m not sure that the Non–Aligned Movement is one that the GCC should be associated with. The Movement’s very name is a misnomer as it gives the impression that each is geopolitically independent, while, in fact, its 120 member countries are aligned with each other primarily against Western powers when it suits their own interests.

In any event, it has not lived up to the ideals outlined by Fidel Castro in 1979 which were to assure “the national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and security of non-aligned countries” struggling “against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, racism and all forms of foreign aggression, occupation, domination, interference or hegemony as well as against great power and bloc politics.”

Although NAM’s member states represent some 55 per cent of the world’s population, preventing the invasions of members, such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, certain NAM members provided either troops or ancillary support to the coalition, such as Azerbaijan, the Dominican Republic, and Hondurus, thereby breaching NAM’s own set of principles, including “Mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty”, “mutual non-aggression” and “peaceful co-existence.”

Likewise, Azerbaijan and Bangladesh (both NAM members) supplied armed forces and naval vessels respectively to attack a fellow member Afghanistan in 2001. The fact is that countries that purport to have adopted the principles on which NAM was founded are not nonaligned at all; certainly not in the way that, say, Switzerland has proved to be.

When considering whether or not to accept Iran’s invitation, I would only advise the leaders of the GCC to think upon these wise words written by Aesop. “A doubtful friend is worse than a certain enemy. Let a man be one thing or the other, and we then know how to meet him.”

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