Twenty years lago, Baghdad dressing again to host a summit of the Arab League. But nothing is what it was. Neither the city nor its guests. The beautification effort by Iraq to the occasion just hides the wounds of two wars, a decade of sanctions, eight years of U.S. occupation and the resulting sectarian divide in society. Also the faces of visitors have changed, not so much over time as the riots during the past year have driven from power several of the historical protagonists of this meeting. Remains to be seen if the new players will be able to imbue the representation content under the banner of Syria is especially Iraq and the Arab world.
"The goal of the summit is concerned primarily with Iraq," portrays a European ambassador stationed in Baghdad. Without doubt, this is a personal triumph for Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who last year saw the Arab riots forced to cancel.
Now, after success in neutralizing internal political rivals Iraqiya, has finally come time to claim the outer weight corresponding to the Country of Two Rivers, the ancient Mesopotamia the British chalk became the modern state in 1932.The last time Iraq hosted an Arab summit in 1990, just before Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and shall gain international marginalization.
Baghdad is now re-entry point in the Arab circuit, lower voltage level where possible and the balance between its Sunni neighbors and Iran.
The problem is, according to the diplomat, that "the agenda contains issues that are currently intractable." Only one is enough to highlight the challenges and contradictions facing the summit and the Arabs in general: Syria.
"There must be a political solution, constitutional changes and political rights for a transfer of power, but through a process driven from within Syria with the help of the international community," said Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari.
His words express the quadrature of the circle. When they meet tomorrow in the refurbished rooms of the Republican Palace on the Tigris, the Arab leaders will not ask Bashar al-Assad to leave power.
Although last November agreed to the temporary suspension of the league, there is no consensus to go further. The brutal repression with which Bashar has responded to popular protest (9,000 killed since March last year, according to the UN) has taken his former ally Qatar and Saudi Arabia to ask you to arm the opposition. But Iraq, which shares a border of 600 kilometers, trembles at the possibility.
The Syrian opposition is, by the sheer weight of demography, substantially Sunni. His eventual rise to power in Damascus embolden the Sunni Iraqis, a marginalized minority in the new political order out of the U.S. invasion and the overthrow of Saddam.
Al Maliki member of the majority Shiite Arab community in Iraq governs with the support of the Kurdish minority and the Sunnis accuse him of sectarianism. The case concerned the rest of its Arab neighbors (mostly Sunni), especially at a time when the rivalry with Shiite Iran slash highs.
Thus, Al Maliki, who has excellent relations with Tehran, has avoided the courtesy call to its powerful eastern neighbor.
Hence also not on the agenda of the summit the conflict between the opposition (mostly Shiite) in Bahrain and its Sunni monarchy. And some of the absences.
But if the divisions have been a constant in this forum Arabic, new fissure lines are the result of the earthquake that struck last year this geopolitical region.One look at the family photo with the March 28, 2010 closed the 22nd summit in Sirte (Libya) to understand the change.
The host then, Qaddafi Muammar died slain at the hands of Libyan rebels last October, the Egyptian
In countries where elections have been the Islamists have succeeded, which until now were out of power. It remains to see how these new representatives will influence this institution steeped for half a century of Arab nationalist ideology.
Reidar Visser, a specialist in Iraq and author of historiae.org devoted to the study, believes that Baghdad "wants to turn to those countries at the expense of the conservative Gulf states."
The Iraqi government has spent $ 500 million on improving hotel facilities and other infrastructure (including a million for flowers). But above all has made a huge security effort that includes the deployment of thousands of police and soldiers in Baghdad, the blockade of the city whose inhabitants have received a week's vacation and closure of airspace from Monday until Friday.
Still only got the commitment to attend eight heads of state who just spend 12 hours in the country. Most of the 22 villas equipped to host the leaders will be empty, as the very essence of the League.