01.03.2019 Author: Yuriy Zinin

Warsaw Conference: Skepticism Expressed by Arab Media


A US-led “Ministerial to Promote a Future of Peace and Security in the Middle East”, held from 13 to 14 February in Warsaw, generated a perceptible response from media outlets and experts in the region. Sixty countries were represented at the event, including a number of Arab delegations and an Israeli one, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The forum received a wide range of feedback, but most local commentators perceived it to have an overwhelmingly anti-Iranian thrust to it. Such assessments were far from arbitrary. After all, resolving the entire set of problems associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the longest in modern history, (encompassing issues of refugees, borders, illegal settlements, Jerusalem, etc.) is a hopeless endeavor. At present, neither the United States nor the West is capable of handling it.

Hence, they decided to place a “misleading sign” on the path towards solving this issue and send everyone down a false trail.

According to one of the Arab commentators, the Warsaw conference was meant to serve as a platform against Iran. Its organizer, Washington, in search of a winning “potion”, took a gamble by linking the Palestinian issue to the need to combat the Iranian threat. Their concept was presented in such a way as to underscore the righteousness of normalizing relations between Israel and a number of Arab nations, and portray Iran as the sole enemy of Arabs, and Israel as their savior from Iranian guile.

In the opinion of several other authors, the conference aimed to inspire its participants by a barter of sorts, i.e. in exchange for Washington’s aid in the confrontation against Iran, the United States will support and promote the so-called “deal of the century”, which Americans have been trumpeting about. However, this “deal of the century” (Donald Trump’s initiative, announced in July 2018, aimed at normalizing relations between Israelis and Palestinians) is still “obscured by fog”. Even before the forum was scheduled, the U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo promised that its detailed account would be revealed in Warsaw. But later on, they effectively steered away from this topic, according to Arab experts.

While defending the conference, a prominent figure in the Saudi Arabian media, Abdulrahman Al-Rashed, stated that they were blackmailed in various ways, but still took part, which showed “political maturity”.

However, his viewpoint was met with a wave of skepticism, with which Arabs, especially Palestinians, perceived ideas expressed at the Warsaw meeting and its outcomes.  Headlines in media outlets of the region reflect this: “Warsaw: poorly worded and directed play”, “Warsaw conference: a minefield”, “American improvisation in Warsaw”, etc.

This conference had been widely trumpeted about before it began, but it ended very quietly. According to media sources, it is pointless to discuss unity among participants. As the lack of it prevented attendees from developing a joint plan of action and tools to confront the so-called “Iranian threat”.

As for the relations between Arabs and Israelis, a certain shift was observed in Warsaw. But there were no signs of a breakthrough, widely publicized by Benjamin Netanyahu.

The Russian Federation and China were not represented in Warsaw, Palestinians chose to avoid the forum, and European support was not sufficiently unequivocal or strong taking into account their fairly modest participation in the event. European politicians continue to distance themselves from the U.S. strategy to contain Iran and maintain their support for the Iran nuclear agreement.

According to researcher Hussein Ibish from the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, the Warsaw conference “demonstrated more weakness and division than strength and solidarity“.

“If the purpose of the meeting was to lay the basis for a military alliance against Iran, this goal was not achieved. The problems of the Arab region will not be resolved by military alliances.” Professor Dr. Neven Massad, a political scientist from Egypt, thinks that any discussions about increased isolation of Tehran are greatly embellished. This view finds confirmation in the Sochi Summit, attended by the Iranian leader.

Against this backdrop, Arab media sources note that Russia’s President Putin retaliated with two key steps. The first involved staging a summit on Syria in Sochi, with Russia, Turkey and Iran in attendance, and organizing an Intra-Palestinian Meeting in Moscow with the aim of reconciling Palestinians.

According to the digital news website Rai al-Youm, while Warsaw “sounded war drums” against Iran, the meeting in Sochi of leaders from the Russian Federation, Iran and Turkey was held in the interests of defusing the conflict in Syria.

And the first step forward was definitively taken in Sochi. Russia offered its cooperation to Damascus and Turkey in implementing and updating the Adana agreement, signed by the two parties in 2009, with the view of establishing permanent peace and security in the troubled nation of Syria.

Yury Zinin, Leading Research Fellow at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.

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