Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Annapolis: The World Minus Iran

Annapolis Conference
(State Department Photo)

The leaders of US, Israel and Palestine along with nearly 40 foreign ministers including 20 Arab and Muslim foreign ministers and the leaders of the UN, EU, and the Arab League were in attendance in Annapolis. So much for Ayatollah Khamenei’s near-fatwa: Boycott Annapolis!

The day after the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that the US will host a Middle East conference to put Israeli-Palestinian peace process back on track, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a rare appearance as the Friday’s Prayer Imam, urged Arab and Muslim countries to boycott the conference. Khamenei said the Palestinians see the conference as “a hoax” which will bring them no benefit. Yet he could only muster the support of Hamas and Hezbollah, two terrorist organizations heavily financed by Iran, to oppose Annapolis. Even the Syrians showed up at the conference. Today, Tehran is abuzz of what went wrong.

Khamenei used up a lot of political capital to call for the boycott of Annapolis almost certain that aside from Hamas and Hezbollah a number of Arab countries, starting with Syria, would heed the call. Even on Monday, just a day before the conference was to take place, the Iranian leaders were trying desperately to persuade the Arabs not to go. President Ahmadinejad personally telephoned Saudi King Abdullah and Syrian President Asad in a last-ditch attempt to defeat Annapolis. He later angrily criticized participants of the conference. Iran’s isolation has never been so overwhelmingly apparent.

The Annapolis gathering, no matter how it would affect the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, was already a major defeat for the Islamic Republic. To show Tehran still matters, the minister of defense announced the production of a new, indigenously developed solid-fuel ballistic missile with a range of 2,000 km-2,500 km, covering the whole Middle East, named Ashura (a telling choice of name, as Ashura symbolizes historic Shia war against the Sunnis.)

Annapolis specially created high tensions between Tehran and Damascus. Bashar Assad showed he would sacrifice his “special” relations with Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to be back on track to regain the Golan Heights. Indeed any serious peace initiative involving the Israelis, the Palestinians and the Syrians would do more to isolate the Islamic Republic than any US diplomatic or military action against the country. And this might explain the change of heart in the White House after seven long years. Resolving the Middle East conflict might now be considered in the US national interest and a short cut to isolate the Islamic Republic.

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