Focus Shifts in Riyadh
From media reports the 3rd summit in Saudi Arabia of Islamic and Arabic countries seems to have had less to do with its avowed aim of tackling terrorism than with US President Donald Trump.
Deepening conflict in Afghanistan was pushed to the sidelines of the conference. President Ashraf Ghani met separately with US officials, while Trump and the Saudi King Salman signed off on an arms deal and investments worth billions of dollars, and also assessed security challenges in Syria and Iran.
Trump accused Tehran of being the source of "destruction and chaos across the region". He said, “For decades, Iran has fueled the fires of sectarian conflict and terror."
Iran's Foreign Minister Jawad Zarif took to Twitter to comment on the Trump attack from "that bastion of moderation & moderation" (read Kingdom of Saudi Arabia – KSA). Zarif wondered if it was "foreign Policy or simply milking KSA of $480B?" (480 billion USD)
Singling out Iran, the huge deals struck with the Saudis and the presence of Trump's glamorous wife Melania in the deeply conservative country dominated news headlines.
Naweed Elham, political analyst, says, "While the leaders of the Riyadh summit insisted counter terrorism was the focus, this part of the summit was less commented on in Islamic countries. People's attention was on US-Saudi ties, the encounter with King Salman, and the presence of US first lady."
On the heels of the Saudi summit a suicide bomber attacked a concert in Manchester, United Kingdom, on May 22, killing 22 people including children. ISIS claimed responsibility, and the British police identified a 22-year-old Briton whose parents were born in Libya as the bomber.
There can be no defeat of terrorism without elimination of extremist ideology.
Civil society activist Eqbal Ferotan says, "Elimination of this phenomenon (terrorism) needs decisive will … Political support coming out of the Riyadh summit will fan terrorism and sectarianism instead of eliminating."
The president's palace issued a statement saying counter-terrorism was discussed in a meeting between American and Afghan leaders on the "margin of Riyadh summit".
But Sher Mohammad Akhundzada, a senator, observes, "If the US is a real ally it should support the cause of peace in Afghanistan."