Assembled Arab leaders (Source: Qatar Conferences)
The Doha Arab Summit has just ended a day early, with a whimper rather than a bang.
The final Doha Declaration expressed strong support for Sudanese President Omar Bashir, but otherwise included garden-variety banalities: calls to settle Arab differences and to overcome Palestinian divisions without specifics about how to do so and on what terms, a vague warning that Israel must demonstrate progress on peace but no time horizon or consequences for acting if it doesn't, respect for the sovereignty and Arab identity of Iraq. The most interesting point about the text is actually an absence: Iran barely appears -- not a word about the nuclear program, only a call to settle the dispute with the UAE over the disputed islands in the Gulf.
But the vacuity of the Declaration isn't really the point. Ending a two day summit after one day, with only the vaguest of resolutions, would seem to indicate a failed summit despite the attendance of 17 heads of state (more than expected) and reports of a relaxed and positive atmosphere. Usually the formal presentations over several days provide cover for lots of side-meetings and private discussions -- were those really deemed not necessary, or were the assembled leaders simply unable to talk to each other? Did the Egyptian boycott make things easier, or make the discussions pointless in its absence? The official site for the Summit posted the text of over twenty statements, but none from the Saudis -- why? Was King Abdullah just too busy patching things up with Qaddafi?
I will be looking into exactly what happened over the next few days. But it's hard to see the outcome of this much-anticipated summit as anything other than a disappointment. How shocking....
Fun fact: after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki requested that his country postpone hosting a summit until 2011 instead of trying to do it in 2010 (which would have been quite a logistical challenge, to say the least), the honor of hosting the next summit went to... Libya. That should be interesting.
UPDATE: great pictures of the Abdallah-Qaddafi "kiss and make up" session:
The happy couple. Whatever happens in Libya, they'll always have Doha. (Source: Elaph.com)
Marc Lynch is associate professor of political science and international affairs at George Washington University.