League summit dominated by Syria, Iran
Summits of the Arab League, established in 1945,
rarely result in action
DHAHRAN - Arab leaders -- minus Syrian
President Bashar al-Assad -- meet in Saudi
Arabia for a summit on Sunday as world
powers face off over Syria and tensions rise
between Riyadh and Tehran.
Saudi Arabia is pushing for a tough, unified
stance against its regional arch-rival Iran
at the annual gathering of the 22-member
The two regional titans, locked in proxy
wars in Syria and in Saudi Arabia's southern
neighbor Yemen, back opposing parties in
Iraq and Lebanon.
The summit begins 24 hours after the United
States, France and Britain launched
controversial air strikes in war-torn Syria
in response to a reported regime chemical
attack on the decimated rebel enclave of
Eastern Ghouta last week.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which both voiced
support for the strikes, remain locked in a
months-long diplomatic standoff, with Riyadh
accusing Doha of supporting Islamist
extremists and being too close to Iran.
- Support for Syria raids -
Summits of the Arab League, established in
1945, rarely result in action.
The last time the bloc made a concrete move
was in 2011, when it suspended Syria's
membership over the Assad regime's role in
Syria remains suspended from the
Saudi Arabia's King Salman will chair
Sunday's summit in the eastern city of
Dhahran, home to Saudi Arabia's oil giant
Aramco and 160 kilometres (100 miles) across
the Gulf from Iran.
Syria's war, the most complex of the
region's conflicts, is the main point of
contention pitting Riyadh and its allies,
who mainly back Sunni rebels, against regime
backer Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah.
Saudi Arabia on Saturday declared its full
support for US-led air raids on Syria, which
the Pentagon said had "successfully hit
Qatar, which has confirmed it will attend
the summit, also backed the strikes.
Its foreign ministry tweeted support for
"operations against specific military
targets used by Syrian regime in its
Gulf Arab states have made massive donations
to Syria but have not officially offered
asylum to Syrians.
Despite widespread Arab condemnation of the
suspected chemical attack, the Dhahran
summit is unlikely to call for Assad to step
Seven years into a war that has claimed
hundreds of thousands of lives, Saudi Arabia
and Iran now agree that the country's future
cannot be decided solely by the Assad
regime, whose troops have regained the upper
hand with massive support from Russia.
Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince
Mohammed bin Salman, 32-year-old son of the
king and de facto ruler of the world's
largest exporter of oil, has said Assad will
- Condemnation over Jerusalem -
The question of Jerusalem is also likely to
figure prominently at the summit as the
United States prepares to move its embassy
there from Tel Aviv after declaring the
disputed city the capital of Israel in a
break with decades of international
Arab ministers at a preliminary meeting in
Riyadh on Thursday focused heavily on
blocking the move, unanimously condemning
the decision by US President Donald Trump.
But Saudi Arabia's crown prince struck a
somewhat different tone during a US tour
earlier this month.
While Saudi Arabia does not officially
recognise Israel, Prince Mohammed told US
magazine The Atlantic that Israelis, like
Palestinians, had a right to their own land.
"There are a lot of interests we share with
Israel and if there is peace, there would be
a lot of interest between Israel and the
Gulf Cooperation Council countries", he
Middle East Online