Putting Iran on Annapolis Guest List Less of a Risk than Not

Putting Iran on Annapolis Guest List Less of a Risk than Not

FINANCIAL TIMES 11/30/07
By Michael Shank

Sir, Saudi Arabia and Syria hardly constitute a coalition of the craven (“Iran looms large over Arab ‘coalition of the frightened’ “, November 28). The appearance of these and other Arab states at the Annapolis peace summit is anything but an exhibition of anxiety over Tehran’s regional role.

The Arab League’s alignment with US President George W. Bush on this peace process remains consistent with previous proclamations. Nothing was new about the Arab voice this time. In 2002, 2006 and again at Annapolis, the Arab League offered Israel normalised relations in exchange for a range of requirements. Had the League refused the invitation, it would have risked being held culpable for failed talks. Thus, anxiety over the US, not the Iranian president, was responsible.

Nor was Syria’s seat at the table anything more than an effort to garner the return of the Golan and the vast water supplies therein. It was not some symbolic indication of an eventual split with ally Iran.

Iran loomed large because it was not invited. And this stalking will probably continue until it is summoned. Placing Iran on the guest-list is less of a risk than not. At the least the Iranians’ presence as participants ensures a level of accountability. Otherwise they remain merely stalkers.

Michael Shank,
Government Relations Adviser,
Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution,
George Mason University,
Arlington, VA 22201, US

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007