Spotlight: Anti-Iran coalition unrealized amid divergence in Warsaw conference

Source: Xinhua| 2019-02-15 23:49:15|Editor: yan
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by Xinhua writers Liu Xi, Zhang Xu

CAIRO, Feb. 15 (Xinhua) -- The Warsaw conference on the Middle East ended up without setting up the anti-Iran coalition, an overt goal of the United States that remains unrealized.

The two-day conference, co-organized from Feb. 13 to 14 by Poland and the United States, appeared to be a blatant attempt to build the coalition of hardliners.

The world's No. 1 power invited some of its allies and Iran's rivals to set the stage for the coalition. However, the European Union (EU) and Arab countries differed on the Iranian issue, leading to no specific agreements.

With the absence of major powers, the conference only resulted in a joint statement, saying that the United States and Poland will create the Middle East Strategic Study Group, a forum of experts, away from what the United States desired.


The conference, attended by the representatives of more than 60 countries, invited Israel and Arab states, but not Iran.

The main topics included the political situation and the role of Iran in regional developments, the situations in Yemen and Syria as well as the security and stability in the region.

During Thursday's session, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence accused Iran of being the "greatest state sponsor of terrorism in the world."

Nathan Tek, U.S. State Department spokesman in the Middle East, told Arab News that the broad agenda of the conference, will reinvigorate efforts to address the region's challenges by "revitalizing our alliances and partnerships."

According to Iran's official IRNA news agency, among the regional countries, Saudi Arabia is eager to make a coalition against Iran during the meeting.

The report said that Saudi Arabia is also following two more objectives from the conference: maximum pressure against Iran and struggle to ease international pressures on Riyadh.

Khalid bin Salman, Saudi ambassador to the United States, said that Saudi Arabia joined the conference "to take a firm stand against forces that threaten the future of peace and security in the region."

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one of the few leaders with resolve against Iran. He considers Iran as Israel's greatest enemy.

In recent years, Israel has carried out hundreds of deadly airstrikes in Syria, claiming that the attacks targeted Iranian sites in order to prevent Iranian forces from achieving a permanent military foothold in Syria.


The absence of other world and regional major players turned the Warsaw conference into somehow a one-man show for the United States.

Russia announced its discontent over holding the conference. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini didn't attend the conference, neither did foreign ministers of France and Germany, which sent lower-ranking staff instead.

Turkey attended at the ambassador's level. In the region, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Palestine were also absent.

IRNA said that only some Eastern European states contributed to the meeting to ally with the United States.

During the conference, Pence called for his country's European allies to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

Last year, U.S. President Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the 2015 multilateral nuclear deal negotiated with Iran, and re-imposed full sanctions on the Islamic republic.

Iran's Kayhan newspaper said that the absence of higher officials from major European powers, key players in the Iran nuclear deal, in the Warsaw conference highlights "festering tensions within the EU over Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal."

Ellie Geranmayeh, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said that the rejection of the conference by some European countries reflects that "although EU countries have problems with Iran's regional behaviors," they don't believe the way in which the U.S. addresses the problem is "constructive for security and stability in the region."


Iran, alongside with Lebanon, has condemned Warsaw conference as an "anti-Iran circus."

Warsaw meeting's final statement is "a proof of the anti-Iran summit's failure," Iran's Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

"Despite Washington's efforts to forge a new alliance against the Islamic republic, the small number and low level of the participants in the conference turned the final statement of the summit into a useless document," Iran's Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Qasemi said.

The final document was developed only by the two organizers of the meeting, and "lacked any credibility," Qasemi added.

The Iranian spokesman also dismissed the allegations raised against Iran during the Warsaw meeting.

Iran's President Hassan Rouhani said on Wednesday that Iran will stand firm in the face of U.S. sanction pressures.

"There won't be a tangible outcome with a statement that isolates Iran," Geranmayeh said.

"European countries are going to be very cautious on what statement they will sign or join any conclusion that points the finger at Iran," the expert added.

Professor Abdel-Mohdy Motawe, a Cairo-based Palestinian political analyst, said that the administration of Trump failed to push the Europeans to adopt a serious position against Iran through increasing sanctions and escalation against Iran.

Therefore, Trump tries to create another bloc by the establishment of "an Arab NATO" supported by Israel to confront Iran, Motawe added.

According to the analyst, the idea of establishing an Arab NATO will fail, as U.S. State Secretary Mike Pompeo failed to market this idea during his recent visit to Cairo and the Middle East region.

The conference is an opportunity that Netanyahu massively uses in his electoral publicity, because he sees that hostility to Iran is the way to build relations with Arab states without having to go through a settlement for the Palestinian issue, Motawe said.

In Motawe's view, the conference will not do any good for the Palestinians, especially that key Arab states have expressed their positions towards the Palestinian cause.