Dubai: When leaders of Muslim-majority nations meet in Makkah on Friday for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit, there will be many issues on the agenda, ranging from Palestine to Islamophobia. However, analysts believe one issue is expected to dominate discussions: Iran and its proxies in the region.
Tensions with Iran are also expected to feature at the top of deliberations of both the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit and the Arab Summit scheduled to take place tomorrow. The Makkah Summits “in my view are not being held to denounce a certain country, but rather to formulate an Arab and an Islamic position vis-a-viz the challenges facing the region, which could push it towards a destructive military confrontation”, Sulaiman Al Oqeliy, a Saudi political commentator, said.
“I believe Iran’s actions will be discussed at the summit though its name will not be mentioned as it has tried to distance itself from the terrorist activities of its proxy militias. Those actions will be denounced as they threaten the stability and security of the region as well as the key oil shipping route, which put the region under strategic pressure,” Al Oqeliy said in a statement to Gulf News.
The OIC summit’s agenda includes several issues and the Palestinian question features prominently, an OIC source told Gulf News. Other topics include conflicts in the Muslim world, plight of Muslims in non-Muslim countries, the fight against terrorism, Islamophobia, humanitarian issues, as well as scientific and media cooperation among the 57 members of the OIC, the source said.
Iran is one of the founding members of the OIC, which was created in 1969.
“The main topic [on the OIC agenda] is Iran,” said Amr Al Shobaki from the Cairo-based Al Ahram Strategic Studies Centre.
“It is no longer only Iran, it has become Iran and its proxies, and these proxies have started adopting even more violent tactics in attacks across borders in multiple locations,” Al Shobaki told Gulf News in an interview. He was talking about actions of pro-Iran militias and groups in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon.
Yemen’s Al Houthis, supported and financed by Iran, have claimed responsibility for attacks against Saudi targets, including that on an oil pipeline earlier this month.
Arab and Muslim countries adopt differing views when it comes to dealing with Iran. It would be difficult for leaders of Muslim-majority states to take a unified position on how to deal with Tehran, analysts said. However, Al Shobaki said: “Surely, there are differences, but I believe an agreement [is attainable] on respecting countries’ sovereignty and formulating a pact that would guarantee that Iran will not interfere in the internal affairs of other states.”
Several Arab countries accuse Tehran of interfering in their internal affairs, and fomenting sectarian divisions in the Arab world. Iran’s regional policies and behaviour are some of the reasons behind the tough stance taken against it by Washington. “Nobody is calling for war with Iran and nobody is calling to eliminate Iran because this will have huge ramifications on the region,” said Al Shobaki.
However, “the general principle is to reject interference in other countries’ internal affairs, and Muslim countries should reach a consensus on this during the [three] summits”, he added.