Even by its own dismal standards, the Arab League summit was a flop


WHAT if they held a summit and no one came? That, almost, is what has just happened in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania—which most Arabs probably did not know was part of the Arab League at all. On July 25th only seven of its 22 heads of state bothered to attend their summit and one of them, Ould Abdul Aziz of Mauritania, was there anyway.

Another, Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi of Yemen, was booted out of his capital by rebels in 2015, and doesn’t have much else to do. A third, Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide, meaning that his travel options are severely limited. Not that Nouakchott is a very flash destination. For want of a suitable venue, the meeting was held in a tent.

King Salman of Saudi Arabia said he was ill—which is probably true since he is 80 and infirm. But he did not think it worth sending his son, Muhammad bin Salman, the 30-year old deputy crown prince, who actually runs the country these days.

Another no-show was King Mohammed VI of Morocco. He was meant to have been hosting the summit himself. But in February he renounced the honour. His foreign ministry put out a statement saying that “given the absence of important concrete initiatives which could be submitted to Arab Heads of State, this summit will only be an occasion to take ordinary resolutions and deliver speeches which pretend to give a false impression of unity and solidarity between Arab States.”

That, of course, is the rub. The implosion of so many states, the region-wide strife between Sunni and Shia Arabs, and the economic crises caused by the weak oil price have all combined to produce unprecedented levels of division and bitterness among the League’s members. Far easier just to stay at home.



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