Baghdad’s “Summit of the inexperienced”

Leaders of Arab States at the start of their summit meeting in Baghdad in March 2012.

The Summit of the Heads of State of the League of Arab States in Baghdad at the end of March was meant to symbolise the return of Iraq to the Arab fold, after the US led invasion and the subsequent turmoil of recent years. It was overshadowed by events in the Arab world in the last eighteen months which has seen a number of Arab leaders that had been in power for decades toppled by popular revolution.

The turnout for the Baghdad summit must have been dissapointing for the Iraqi government. Most leaders stayed away, including all the Gulf leaders except the Emir of Kuwait, who has been keen to nurture relations with his country’s former invader. The others stayed away, ostensibly in protest against the marginalisation of the Sunni community by the Shia-led Iraqi government, and differences over Syria. The summit ended up being essentially a non event. However perhaps the more interesting asspect of this summit was the presence of new leaders from Tunisia and Libya, for whom the summit was their first experience of Arab diplomacy and whose inexperience at such events could be seen from the pictures.  Their unknown faces instead of the familiar ones of Mubarak, Gadhaffi, Ben Ali and Abdulla Saleh, that had dominated the group photos of Arab summits for the last four decades, well and truly mark the end of an era, and this may be the strongest message coming out from the Baghdad summit.