1 September 2012, 11:18

Middle East deeply divided over Syria

Middle East deeply divided over Syria
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Dr. Raja Mohan, Head of Strategic Studies with the Observer Foundation in New Delhi, India, on NAM summit in Tehran.

I think the Summit has clearly exposed the profound divisions within the Middle East, while most people were aware of these divisions. The fact that the Egypt’s new elected President Mohamed Mursi has called passionately for a strong support to the people of Syria against the Assad regime, this is clearly an open split within the region. It was not visible in the OIC Summit. I think that the Middle East is deeply divided and that is what has come true.

But have there been any other major surprises?

It also made a surprise in the sense that there was hype by the Western countries that somehow Iran is going to use this to kind of runaway with support from the rest of developing world. That is always our estimation and there was no question because the region is divided and the regional contradictions have just come to the surface.

You sound a little bit disillusioned.

No, I’m not at all disillusioned. I’m a realist because it was quite clear that much of this was hyped from both sides. Iran trying to say – look, the summit will transform the Non-Aligned Movement and they are going to lead the region. That was the Iranian hype. The Western hype was about how dangerous the summit was going to be. The same Western countries who didn’t say a word about NAM during the Egyptian summit of the last time, in 2009, were so concerned that people were going to go to Tehran. But I think people endeavoured on both sides. The NAM has never been an easy organization to lead, it always had deep internal features. More summits ended carelessly. You just step over these differences. But the summit on the situation in Syria is clearly of significance that the regional division has come to the public view.

But on the other hand there are so many challenges now. The international situation is so tricky and the economic situation is tricky. Do you think that perhaps the NAM could somehow reinvent its goals?

How can you reinvent that organization? Do you believe that NAM can be reinvented? It was always the posture aimed at no basis in reality. It is not the first time somebody tried to make something out of NAM. You had the Cubans trying to do something with it in 2006, you had Malaysia trying to do something with it in 2003. But it is a diverse organization. It is not the 1950’es or 1960’es. The interests are different, in economics, in trade negotiations you can’t construct the third world block. So, I think it is a very different world and NAM is largely irrelevant for those challenges.

Do you think that perhaps this kind of mood of non alliance could produce some other creature, some other organization?

They already exist, I mean for example India is focused on BRICS, it is focused on IPSAR, it is focused on G20. And in the regional thing India is focused on TSARK made in its own region, it is interested in the East Asia Summit. So, there is a whole range of new organizations which promote more currently the interests of different people. So, the NAM is really sometimes the radical ideologists, like the Iranians who look if they can use it. But I think it is always like an illusion.

Has it somehow helped Iran that it hosted the summit like that?

I doubt it. The problem is that even if the summit was successful, but the Iranians and Saudi Arabia at odds with each other, Egypt has its own agenda, Turkey has its own agenda because Turkey is not part of NAM. But there are these deep differences, so this can’t be a reconciling conference.

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