Title:   Daily Digest 12/12: ISLAMIC CONFERENCE IN TEHRAN

Date:   19971212


Friday, 12 December 1997


Overseas analysts following the eighth Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Tehran this week saw signs of hope for a "thaw" in Iran's relations with the West.

The assessment came as a surprisingly positive development for a gathering that was touted even before it began as a blow to U.S. "prestige" in the Middle East. The conference was seen as a vehicle for Arab and Muslim frustration with the slow pace of the Arab-Israeli peace process and the U.S. "dual containment" policy toward Iran and Iraq. Interestingly, pundits' optimism was based on two events--the "moderate" words of Iran's new president, Mohammed Khatami, in a speech to the gathering, and an announcement by Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah that his kingdom was willing "to mediate" between Iran and the U.S. Commentators from practically every region supported the idea of a U.S.-Iran dialogue. These were themes in commentary:

'DUAL CONTAINMENT'--Observers urged the U.S. to review its policy toward Iran and Iraq. Regarding Iran, European pundits argued as expected that the U.S. sanctions policy "makes even less sense now" that Iran is showing signs of "moderation."

A British paper asserted, "The U.S. should decouple its policies on Iran and Iraq...(and), with the EU and Russia, work out a policy which holds Iran to its new-found moderation." In Egypt, a pro-government paper envisioned the restoration of "normal" relations between Egypt and Iran after almost two decades. By contrast, Iraq was seen as an irritant to its neighbors, although writers continued to oppose the UN embargo against Baghdad. Saudi editorialists worried about Iraq's hijacking the OIC meeting to suit its own purposes against the UN. A Kuwaiti paper decreed that its government would continue to press for the return of POW's "who are languishing" in Iraq's prisons.

MIDDLE EAST PEACE--Media coverage of the summit in OIC countries contained the usual Israel-bashing, but most editorials stopped short of endorsing Iran's unequivocal opposition to holding the peace talks at all. Saudi and Jordanian writers favored the "language of dialogue" over violence and militancy as a solution to Arab grievances against Israel. A Saudi journalist entertained the possibility of more "creative" solutions such as cooperation between Muslim nations and Israel's peace movement.

In editorial comment uncharacteristic of an Israeli paper discussing Iran, Tel Aviv's mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot opined that President Khatami spoke "positively" about the peace process, and concluded that, although the ayatollah "still holds the reins of power...history, the people and the future are on Khatami's side."

NEW ERA OF UNITY?--While the majority of analysts effused about a new era in Islamic-Arab relations, a few writers were less enthusiastic about the overall achievements of the summit. Calling the meeting a snapshot of "two weddings and a funeral," an Italian editorialist said that the Tehran-Riyadh axis and an apparent reconciliation between Iranian and Iraqi leaders were "a double success" for President Khatami but that the "funeral regarding relations between the OIC hawks and Turkey" would have negative "repercussions" for Ankara.

This survey is based on 54 reports from 23 countries, December 7-12.

EDITORS: Gail Hamer Burke and Kathleen Brahney


IRAN: "OIC Poised To Assume Historic Role In Shaping New World Order"

The official, English-language Iran Daily dedicated its (12/8) edition to the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit.

The paper said that after years of being a sleeping giant, the OIC is now recognized for its potential strength, second to only the largely dormant Non-Aligned Movement, and is "poised to assume a paramount historical role in shaping the new world order." The paper also suggested that the summit's attendance, compared with the boycott of the U.S.-sponsored Doha Economic Conference last month, illustrates how Washington has lost influence with its "Arab friends." It said: "The dismal U.S. failure has led to a counter-offensive to pressure influential Muslim leaders to stay away from the Tehran summit. It has been accompanied by Western media criticism of the OIC as an exclusive club that leaves non-Muslim countries out in the cold. Yet, there was a time when such Islamic gatherings were condoned, if not discreetly encouraged."

EGYPT: "OIC Summits Still Have Far To Go"

Salama Ahmed Salama, columnist, pro-government daily Al-Ahram (12/11): "After days of discussions, the outcome of the summit seems not to differ from previous resolutions. Arab countries may be happy about condemning Turkish-Israeli cooperation, opposing terrorism, or confirming the Palestinian right to Jerusalem, but the bitter situation of Islamic nations remains unchanged. Except for the fact that Iran came out of its isolation, Islamic summits still have to concentrate on the means to take their nations out of backwardness and inability, and assert their right to freedom and democracy."

"Turkey's Alliance With Israel"

Pro-government Al Akhbar carried this piece penned by columnist Emad Omar (12/11): "Turkish generals seem to insist on going through with a military alliance with Israel--despite Arab and Islamic objections. Israel's aims from this alliance are clear, primarily because of the weapon deals. But these deals may be only a cover for Israel to go through Turkey to reach Syria, Iran, and Iraq. Making good relations with Ankara will also help Israel enter the former Soviet Islamic republics. At this point, Israel, as always, will be a 'claw' and a cover for the United States. It is, thus, logical that the United States supports this alliance. Therefore, this alliance is suspicious. Israel's ambitions may reach a level where Turkey may then realize that it allied with the devil and regrets that it sold its own history and its relations with the Arab world."

"Return To Normalized Egypt-Iran Ties?"

Salama Ahmed Salama, columnist for pro-government daily Al-Ahram, asked (12/10): "Was it necessary to keep Egyptian-Iranian relations restrained...since Iran withdrew its ambassador after the Egyptian-Israeli peace accord was signed? Currently, there are signs that both sides are willing to return relations to normal.... Coping with the rapid regional changes impels all parties to correct the disparities in their relations. Division among (Arab) countries proved to have weakened the Arab side.... The Islamic Summit is a unique opportunity for the Islamic world to review its mistakes and amend its relations. Clearly, these expectations come from the changes inside Iran itself which can return Iran to normal relations, regionally and internationally."

"Tehran's Challenge To U.S. Foreign Policy"

Ahmed Hassan wrote in pro-government Al-Akhbar (12/9): "Despite the differences among rulers in Tehran...and the expected difference in opinions among the participants in the summit...this attendance is, in fact, the biggest penetration of the blockade that Washington set against Tehran. It is another failure of American foreign policy, especially since Iran has succeeded in challenging American sanctions by signing the Total deal...ending the diplomatic dispute with the EU...and improving its relations with many Arab countries, including Egypt."

"Iran: From Revolution To Statehood"

Pro-government Al Akhbar wrote (12/8): "The Islamic Summit which will be held tomorrow is the most important even in Iran's history.

It confirms the transformation of Iran from revolution to statehood.... It is time for Iran to reap the fruits of moderation.... Gulf countries in particular see this summit as important to improving their relations with Iran, enjoying peaceful co-existence, ending the conflict between Sunnis and Shiites, and settling the dispute over the UAE's islands.... The wide participation of Islamic countries in the Islamic summit...confirms the freedom of political decision and sovereignty, especially after most of them refused to participate in the MENA Conference in Doha. The United States failed to pressure countries to participate in Doha, but Iran has succeeded in preparing for the Islamic Summit.... There are also signs of the return of diplomatic relations between Egypt and Iran."

"Unprecedented Challenge To U.S. Prestige"

Mahmoud Sultan contributed this to Islamist-leaning opposition Al Shaab (12/5): "The announcement of key Arab countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabi and Egypt, to participate in the Islamic Summit after a 20-year boycott of Tehran, is an unprecedented challenge to U.S. prestige. The United States accused Iran of terrorism, and has instigated both countries against Tehran, which is claimed to have plotted the Al Khobar attack on Americans.... Cairo has started to express its discontent with American provocation, especially in other matter concerning Copts, the Libyan opposition leader Kikhia, the North Korean ambassador, and Washington generosity in aid to Tel Aviv despite (Israel's) reluctance to implement the peace deals."

INDONESIA: "Coming In From The Cold"

The pro-government Indonesia Times held (12/10): "The summit, however trivial it may be for other countries, is strategically essential at a time when Muslim countries...need to refresh their sense of unity and solidarity. As for Iran, the summit has played a major role in boosting its image as the new Islamic world's informal leader who came in from the cold."

"The OIC Summit A Success Of Iran's Diplomacy"

Pro-government, Islamic-oriented Harian Pelita held (12/10): "This summit demonstrates that Iran is getting closer to other Islamic states and that means the failure of Western isolation.... In its role as summit host, it is undeniable that Iran has become an Islamic power that other countries should take into account. In fact, the mingling among Arab states and Iran is expected to create a fresh atmosphere in which the Middle East peace process may flourish."

JORDAN: "Will Tehran Succeed?"

Daily columnist Riham Farra opined in independent, mass-appeal, Arabic-language Al-Arab Al-Yawm (12/9): "We cannot deny the political and moral importance of this summit as a sign of escaping American hegemony. The summit has also defied the traditional isolation of countries like Iran, Iraq and Libya and has isolated other countries, likeTurkey.... We are not optimistic, but we are not pessimistic either. We hope that the Islamic summit's decision will adopt a language free of emotion and free of rhetoric."

"Tehran Will Achieve Nothing"

Senior editor Saleh Qallab said in independent, mass-appeal, Arabic-language Al-Arab Al-Yawm (12/9): "This summit in Tehran will achieve nothing.... This is the status quo and we should not lead the world into believing that the outcome is a holy Islamic movement marching toward Palestine, the United States or anywhere else."

"Unity In The Arena"

The centrist, influential among the elite, English-language Jordan Times (12/8) editorialized: "The Tehran meeting can establish respect worldwide by speaking openly and affirmatively against human rights violations and in support of pluralistic democracy. The true color of Islam can never shine brightly unless and until Muslim countries endorse human rights and champion democracy. The Muslim states must not be viewed as the bastions of totalitarianism or dictatorship. That is why the Tehran conference has to speak out boldly in favor of human rights and democracy as the number-one priority issue on its agenda. If and when such an agenda becomes the basis for Islamic unity, the Islamic world will become an important player in the international arena; a player that can protect its interests in an arena where the players are so few."

KUWAIT: "Turkish-Israeli Military Alliance Is Unacceptable"

Independent Al-Qabas held (12/9), "Let us start by suspending all forms of normalization with Israel in order to support the Arab position which is supportive of the 'land for peace' principle. The Tehran summit is also important in regard to Gulf issues, notably, finding a mechanism for amending the Gulf Arab-Iranian relations and turning the region into a lake of stability, in a way which makes the Iraqi situation, with its current hostile regime, just an exception. Also, the summit is supposed to be a genuine factor in containing the Turkish position, and making Ankara understand that it is no longer acceptable to ally itself with Israel, and that this alliance should not be an endorsement for Turkey to invade northern Iraq or support for its position on the Cyprus issue."

"Islamic Countries Must Adopt Language Of Dialogue"

According to independent Al-Anba (12/9), "We realize that it is difficult for the summit, in three days, to realize the 'great dream' of solving the disputes which have beset our Islamic nation for years. Nevertheless, the summit can be more than successful if it can achieve one goal--opening a new page in Islamic-Islamic relations, in which the principles operating between Islamic states are on the basis of respect of sovereignty, non-interference in their domestic affairs and adopting dialogue as a means for understanding....

The OIC summit is required to lay down a charter which specifies the framework of relations binding the Islamic world. Kuwait, which is participating in the summit with a high-level delegation led by the emir, will not spare any effort to objectively unite the Islamic ranks. Kuwait carries to the summit the issue of its POW's who are languishing in Iraqi prisons."

LEBANON: "The Islamic Summit"

Rajeh Khuri opined (12/8) in mainstream An-Nahar: "There is no doubt that Secretary Albright who tasted Arab frustration in the Doha conference and 'Arab resentment' towards the American weapon inspections in Iraq, will feel very bitter indeed while following-up the Islamic summit in Iran, which drew 55 countries (one-fourth of the world).... Will the United States try to learn anything from the already successful Islamic summit in Tehran? There is no doubt that the number of countries that Tehran was able to attract to the summit clearly show the extent of Washington's diminishing credibility. The only solution Washington has is to deal with real firmness with Netanyahu, who did not only succeed in destroying the peace process, but also made of the United States a country that is really resented and even hated in the region."

"Khatami's International Emersion"

A front-page editorial by Sihar Ba'siri in mainstream daily An-Nahar held (12/8): "Khatami created an atmosphere of openness inside Iran. Apparently, he also succeeded in doing the same outside. This summit places Iran on the threshold of a new phase. If we compare this summit to Doha's economic conference, we conclude that Khatami did not only succeed in making a change in the general Arab policy towards Tehran. He also proved that the United States failed completely in isolating Iran. Today, Iran is neither isolated nor ostracized. Rather, it is very close to the closest Arab country to the United States, namely Saudi Arabia."

MALAYSIA: "OIC's Agenda: Reforming Currency Trading System"

Referring to Malaysia's efforts to promote "regulations and greater transparency in currency trading" as a result of the financial crisis, the government-influenced Business Times said in an editorial (12/9): "Malaysia's efforts at the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) must be considered in the same perspective. There is a genuine desire to see the world benefit from a more regulated and transparent currency trading system. It is not a conspiracy by nations linked by a similar religion to harm anyone in particular. Malaysia and its neighbors have been economic victims of currency and stock market manipulation. It is only right that other countries, be they in the OIC, APEC or the EU, be warned that no nation will be spared if the evils in the free market are not exorcised. A firm commitment from the OIC, nevertheless is critical.... If the OIC does not help to check the problem, it will discover that the wealth of its nations will be eroded.... Matters such as Israel's aggression and sanctions imposed by the United Nations on Iraq, Iran and Libya should be addressed at the UN."

MOROCCO: "Toward Building A New, Strong, Coherent Islamic World"

Opposition, leftist Al Ittihad Al Ishtiraki front-paged this editorial (12/9): "The holding of the 8th OIC Summit is a victory for Iranian policy, which has succeeded in bringing the country out of isolation. Muslims are looking forward to more cooperation and solidarity among Islamic countries.... The Islamic world today suffers from dependence on the West and economic embargoes imposed by the United States.... The Islamic world today is challenged by Israeli policies that are supported by the United States, all in the context of a historic conflict between civilizations. The Islamic world should put more pressure on the Zionist government and the United States as peace broker to create an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, as well as the liberation of all Arab occupied territories."

"No Unity In Diversity At OIC"

Said Fatmi wrote on the front page of opposition, French-language L'Opinion (12/9): "Considering the disarray in the relations among OIC states, we cannot really talk about unity in diversity. Yet this is the bare minimum that the people of the Arab world expect from its leaders."

PAKISTAN: "Arabs No Longer Willing To Dance To U.S. Tune"

An op-ed piece by Saad S. Khan in Peshawar's independent Frontier Post (12/9), "The failure of U.S.-sponsored Middle East Economic Conference in Qatar last month has demonstrated that the Arabs are no longer willing to dance to Washington's tunes. The Islamic leadership should not recognize Israel and should reiterate its resolve that the Muslim world would not tolerate Zionist brutality against Palestinians, construction of Jewish settlements, any change in the status of Jerusalem or violations of peace treaty with the Palestinians. The OIC should throw full weight behind President Arafat's bid for a full seat in the UN for the Palestine. On the economic front, the Muslim leadership should take practical steps to counter the IMF-imposed 'New International Economic Order,' by establishing an Islamic common market."

"OIC Summit And Muslim Ummah"

The radical, pro-Iran Muslim said in an editorial (12/8): "Washington's attempt to foil the Tehran summit conference is linked with its so-called 'dual containment policy' that is designed to isolate the Islamic Republic of Iran and the voice of Islam against neo-imperialism, exploitation, and corrupt New World Order that is based on absolute materialism and a new form of slavery in the name of the so-called 'globalisation process.'... What is needed is the rebirth of spirit of Shaheed Faisal in the OIC. The Muslims should defy both the dictatorial UNSC decisions and the U.S. dictates, which have worked together to follow a policy of siege and collective punishment of hundreds of millions of the innocent people in Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya and Sudan. A special fund should be established by the OIC to support the dying Muslims under siege in the Muslim countries especially in Iraq."

"The Purring Tiger"

An op-ed by Fahd Hussain in the center-right Nation held (12/7): "Come to think of it, the OIC has hardly ever helped resolve a conflict involving a Muslim country. Despite the enormous resources at its disposal, the organisation remains a divided one with most members pursuing their own interests."

"OIC Summit"

The centrist national News stressed (12/7): "A heavy agenda awaits the OIC summit. The unsettled question of Afghanistan's representation will give rise to differences. Pakistan will obviously press for the recognition of the Taliban, while Iran is likely to hold the fort for the opposing Rabbani alliance. The previous OIC summit had kept the Afghanistan seat vacant, but no mediatory effort since then has succeeded in ironing out differences over the issue.... And the OIC members will have to rise above partisan considerations to let the Islamic body play the arbiter in the Afghan dispute, and dispel the lingering misgivings about its ability to act beyond passing resolutions.... But the real challenge the 28-year-old OIC faces today is transforming its image from a debating club to an effective organ of the aspirations of the Muslim world."

QATAR: "Political Will Lacking At OIC"

Semi-independent Al-Watan had this editorial view (12/10): "As the foreign ministers at the Islamic conference organization were discussing issues to be included in the summit agenda, Ankara received the Israeli defense minister.... The official Turkish news agency mentioned that Ankara will ignore any decision taken by the Islamic summit on its military ties with Israel. This odd Turkish behavior is an example of the behavior of the majority of the Islamic organization's members, if not all of them. Thus, a member state's bilateral ties with the United States take precedence over the concerned country's commitments to the Islamic organization. The Islamic conference organization is neither lacking natural and human resources nor a rich past.... It lacks political will."

"Atmosphere Of Optimism In Tehran"

An editorial in semi-independent Al-Rayah held (12/9): "We are thankful for the atmosphere of optimism and hope that the Tehran summit will have positive results, in terms of cementing Muslim cooperation and solidarity and ending the cool relationships between Islamic countries...and (in) supporting the resilience of the Palestinian people in facing the Zionist attack aimed at violating people and land."

"Blow To Dual Containment"

Semiofficial Akhbar Al-Khalij published this comment (12/8) by Hafedh Al-Shaikh: "Holding the Islamic summit in the Iranian capitol, Tehran, is a political and moral victory for Iran and a humiliating defeat for the stupid American 'dual containment' policy.... It seems that Iran now is ready to prove to the Islamic world and its regimes that maintaining a national policy independent from the American will is possible...and not necessarily a bad thing."

SAUDI ARABIA: "U.S.-Iran Dialogue?"

London-based, pan-Arab Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat editorial (12/11): "The position expressed by Deputy State Department Spokesman James Foley about a possible dialogue with Iran is a positive one.... Therefore, if there are indications about a possible dialogue between Tehran, which the Americans describe as an outlaw regime, and Washington, labeled by the Iranians as the regime of the Great Satan, then it would be desirable to courageously knock on other closed doors for a constructive dialogue.... Dialogue between Washington and any other Arab capital is useful and order to alleviate the suffering of innocent people, bring an end to an irrational waste of resources, and accordingly, to build the regional cooperation that is required for the benefit of all."

"Saudi Arabia Ready To Mediate"

Jeddah-based, moderate Al-Bilad declared (12/11): "Crown Prince Abdullah's announcement that the Kingdom is ready to mediate between Iran and the United States...confirms once again the Kingdom's established policy to spare no effort to solve disagreements between brother Arabs and Muslims, and between them and any other international party."


Commentary in the London-based, English-language Arab News by Amir Taheri stated (12/10): "The United States, the last remaining 'superpower,' has manifestly failed in providing imaginative leadership where it truly matters..., As a result, many countries aresimply shopping around for new alliances and partnership or, at least, trying to distance themselves from Washington..... Nevertheless, things could still go wrong.

"The first minefield that the summit has to cross concerns the issue of peace with Israel. There are three options here... (One,) referring back to Resolutions 242 and 338 of the United Nations and condemning Israel for violating the rights of the Palestinians and hanging on to occupied territories...(which) would have absolutely no impact on the situation as it exists. (Two,) a virtual declaration of war against Israel and a call for its elimination...(which) would please Netanyahu more than anyone else. It would enable him to silence the Israeli peace movement...and score a diplomatic victory at no cost to his country. The third option, which one may call the sober one, would aim at unifying the Muslim states in support of a realistic quest for a just peace...(and) encourage the Israeli peace movement....

"The second minefield...concerns Iraq...(which) hopes that the present mood of anti-Americanism might enable them to persuade the Tehran summit to endorse Baghdad's call for a lifting of the sanctions...(this) would be an act of political and diplomatic recklessness....

"The third minefield...concerns the long-term relationship between the Islamic nationsand the rest of the world. This could be conceived in terms either of a so-called 'war of civilizations,' as imagined by right-wing Americans and some Muslims, or as an area of political, economic, cultural and civilizational intercourse.... (The first OIC summit in Rabat) revealed the ability of the Muslim nations to set aside their bilateral disputes in the service of the common cause. The Tehran summit will still be judged against the standards set at Rabat. This is a point that participants should bear in mind."

"How Will Iran Take Advantage Of This Opportunity?"

The London-based, pan-Arab Al-Hayat ran this editorial by Khairullah Khairullah (12/10): "We cannot ignore that the convening of the Islamic summit in Tehran constitutes a great success for Iran, which has demonstrated to the United States that it is not isolated and that the policy of dual containment that Washington exercises toward Iraq and Iran has succeeded only against Iraq, but has failed with regard to Iran."

"Washington's Objectives"

Weekly, London-based magazine Al-Wasat featured this editorial (12/8-14) by editor-in-chief George Semaan: "Iran cannot overcome or ignore the American presence in the region, but neither can it fill the vacuum (that would be left by the United States). The that...Netanyahu continues his unsound policies, which may not find any other solution to confronting Iranian expansion except launching a pre-emptive strike.... (That) would drag the entire region toward violence."

SYRIA: "A Summit Of Challenges"

Government-owned Tishreen maintained (12/9): "The success of the (Islamic) conference depends not only on taking decisive resolutions, but on translating these resolutions into tangible and decisive measures against Israel, such as closing all the Israeli diplomatic missions and suspending all kinds of relations with it....

Undoubtedly Syria, represented by President Assad, will play a vital and substantial role in making the conference a success and laying out the basis for a real Islamic solidarity and an Arab-Islamic cooperation."

"OIC Summit Essential To Hold The Scale Even"

Riad Zein wrote in the government-owned Syria Times (12/7): "Great hopes are pinned on the current summit of the Organization of Islamic Conference being held in Tehran. The foreign ministers of member states are keen on discussing ways of overcoming Zionist-imperialist challenges facing the Arab and Islamic nations, especially after repercussions of U.S.-Western 'globalism' have proven to be detrimental to national interests and just causes of Arab and Muslim countries."

TURKEY: "The OIC Summit And U.S. Mideast Policy"

Ahmet Varol wrote in ultra-fundamentalist Akit (12/11): "The OIC summit took place in Iran, which proves that the United States' authority in the Middle East is at stake. The Jerusalem issue, the cause which created the OIC as an entity, has been neglected for a long time, and fortunately it is now one of the priority items of the Tehran summit. The OIC is discussing the aggressive policies of Israel, and Turkey is to be isolated for sure because of its relations with Israel. Turkey fully links its foreign policy to the United States. However, the United States is facing serious consequences in the Middle East because of Israel's policies in the region. Turkey, in the meantime, does its best to quicken the pace of agreements to be signed with Israel. It is impossible to understand why Turkey is approaching Israel while even Israel's closest friend, the United States, is not happy with Israel."

"Results Of Tehran Summit Not Surprising"

Sedat Ergin wrote in mass-appeal Hurriyet (12/11): "The OIC summit concludes with an unpleasant ending for Turkey. Turkey is under fire because of its relations with Israel and because of Turkish army operations in northern Iraq. The final communique will have this criticism, which means that the OIC is targeting one of its very members. Those resolutions (against Turkey) were accepted due to Iraq and Syria's diplomacy. More interestingly, the host,

Iran, has pledged support for this initiative. These three countries have found a consensus to oppose Turkey, although all three have conflicts with each other. We should analyse this. Turkey could not manage to balance its rapid rapprochement with Israel vis-a-vis the Arab world. But the critical situation with the Arab world may be useful regarding Turkey's relations with Europe, because it clearly shows what Turkey's alternatives are."



BRITAIN: "Fault Lines In Tehran"

In the editorial view of the liberal Guardian (12/10): "The Tehran conference also offers a window through which to peer at recent hopeful developments in internal politics.... (These) new developments in Iran should prompt a review--already overdue--in Washington of its persistent efforts to isolate and contain' Iran and to wage a sanctions war against the regime. It makes even less sense now to seek to bar the door from the outside when it is being eased open from within. It would be bizarre, and perhaps disastrous, if outdated American policy missed the chance for constructive engagement, and the hardliners in Washington joined forces with the mullahs in Tehran."

"Iran Comes In From The Cold"

The independent Financial Times put forth this editorial view (12/9): "Today, 54 Moslem countries, more then 30 of them represented by their heads of state, are in Tehran for an Islamic summit which will be the biggest international gathering in Iran since the 1979 revolution. By contrast, last month's U.S.-backed Middle East economic conference in Qatar was boycotted by Washington's Arab friends or attended by lowly officials. The clerical regime in Tehran, until now feared for its attempts to export its brand of militant Islam throughout the region, is coming in from the cold.... The United States should decouple its policies on Iran and Iraq. It should then with the EU and Russia work out a policy which holds Iran to its new-found moderation, based on an agreed system of rewards and penalties for its international behavior. Iran could not be isolated before this summit, much less now."

FRANCE: "Iran Exposes Its Internal Divisions"

Jean-Pierre Perrin said in left-of-center Liberation (12/10), "Iran is clearly demonstrating it has two faces: One that calls for anathema, the other for moderation.... In spite of a decision to appear united, speeches by the leaders of both sides exposed to the world the radical divisions that separate the religious guide Khamenei and the Iranian President Khatami.... One can expect that calls for open hostility toward Israel will serve as the smallest common denominator uniting the 55 participants.... It is also clear that none of the major issues facing the Arab nations will even begin to be addressed."

"Iran In Search Of New Respectability"

Jean-Christophe Ploquin said in Catholic La Croix (12/9): "The fact that this summit is taking place in Tehran is an indisputable success for Iran. In spite of Washington's attempt to isolate Iran and to impose an embargo, none of its traditional allies has decided to boycott the region. Arab nations prefer to maintain relations with their powerful neighbor rather than join Washington's strategy of tension, because Iran is perceived as a pole for regional stability."

GERMANY: "Signals"

Klaus-Dieter Frankenberger said in an editorial in right-of-center Frankfurter Allgemeine (12/11): "For years, the Clinton administration...has tried to isolate Iran politically and economically.... But this policy...has not been very successful. It has mainly resulted in tensions in transatlantic relations. For quite some time, this isolationist course has been doubted even in America, because it would damage U.S. interests. Officially, the government does not want to know anything about a change of course, but it could prove to be a lack of political farsightedness if Washington continued to reject the latest remarks of President Khatami as insignificant and continued to stick to its view of Iran as a 'rogue state.' If the things Khatami mentioned in Tehran...are an indirect offer for a dialogue, Washington should check its substance. This need not be a new 'constructive engagement.'"

"Scotch Tape Does Not Create Unity"

Tomas Avenarius concluded in an editorial in centrist Sueddeutsche Zeitung of Munich (12/9): "It would be fatal if the Tehran conference exhausted itself in attacks on the Middle East peace process. The 'down-with-Israel' slogan has so far been the smallest common denominator of the Arab-Islamic world...but as a political scotch tape this has not been enough until today. And in future, it will not be enough either."

ITALY: "Two Weddings And A Funeral"

Centrist Il Messaggero presented this snapshot of the Tehran summit (12/12): "Two weddings and a funeral.... The first wedding arranged by the able Iranian leadership was with its most important rivals, the Saudis.... The Tehran-Riyadh axis could change power relations not only in the Gulf. Another rapprochement--the most surprising, in fact--was in the air: Iraqi Vice President Ramadan and Iranian President Kathami have reconciled.... This double success can also be interpreted as a personal victory for moderate Khatami, which is likely to have repercussions at the domestic level, i.e., in the confrontation with the extremists led by spiritual leader Khamenei. But the 'funeral' regarding relations between the OIC hawks and Turkey will also have repercussions, and not all of them positive, at least for Ankara.... The OIC concluded its work with a serious appeal against terrorism."

"Khatami Enkindles Hope For Change"

Alberto Stabile remarked from Tehran in left-leaning, influential La Repubblica (12/11): "Palestinians place great expectations on Khatami. In the first place, they expect to thaw ice dating back to...when Arafat took the side of Baghdad in the Iran-Iraq war.... Today Khatami enkindles hopes of change in Iranian strategy, not only toward the Arab world, but also toward the West."

"Saudi-Iranian Thaw?"

PDS (leading government party) daily L'Unita pointed out (12/11): "For the Iranians...a very important diplomatic represented by the meetings between Saudi Arabian heir-apparent Prince Abdullah and Tehran leaders. The thaw between these two Islamic giants is the most President Khatami...could have expected to achieve.... After the embrace with Abdullah, Iranian authorities plan to have confidential talks with Kuwait, Qatar, Turkey and Malaysia."

POLAND: "Dispute Over Two Concepts"

Centrist Rzeczpospolita opined (12/10), "This is the first time since the shah was overthrown by the Islamic revolution that Iran has organized a conference of this stature. This creates an opportunity for Tehran to show Iran to the world as an open country, one willing to hold dialogue and cooperate. But despite the efforts taken by the hosts...who wanted to use this event for propaganda purposes, on the very first day there occurred an obvious clash between...Iran's spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and (the country's) president, Ayatollah Mohammed Khatami--each presented a different vision of Islam."

RUSSIA: "U.S.-Iran Relations Get Warmer?"

Boris Vinogradov held in reformist Izvestia (12/11): "The OIC conference has become a truly epoch-making event. Observers say that it may have a global effect in the context of East-West relations.... The Iranian president urged his brothers-in-faith to be more receptive of the opinions of others, an appeal which had a positive response in the West, with President Clinton calling it encouraging and declaring that the United States was not seeking to have the current regime in Iran changed and was ready to start a dialogue with Tehran. This is viewed as a sign of Iran-U.S. relations starting to become warmer, which might lead to positive changes in world politics."


ISRAEL: "Worlds Apart"

Mass-circulation, pluralist Yediot opined (12/10): "Khatami's Islam can be characterized as open, conciliatory, cultural and civic.... From an Israeli point of view, the most important fact is that President Khatami spoke about the Israeli- Palestinian peace process in positive terms, wanting its continuation and success. But Khatami, despite his impressive popular election, isn't Iran's supreme authority. His superior is 'spiritual leader' Khamenei who, at the same Islamic conference, delivered a revolting, gloomy, rejectionist, anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish and anti-Western culture speech.... Khamenei and Khatami are worlds apart.... Khamenei still holds the reins of power...but history, the people and the future are on Khatami's side."

"A U.S. Achievement"

Mass-appeal, pluralist Maariv judged (12/9): "The location of the (Islamic) conference--Tehran--is evidence of Iran's return to the international arena.... U.S. diplomacy hasn't been successful in isolating the regime of the ayatollahs, which has been using the oil weapon to make its way to Europe. But it seems that the United States has succeeded in slowing down the progress of Iran's ballistic and nuclear armament. As far as Israel is concerned, this achievement is more important than any other aspect of the world's relations with Tehran."

"U.S. Dual Containment"

Columnist Zvi Barel wrote in independent Haaretz (12/8): "If, as a result of the Islamic conference, Iran and Iraq return to...the Arab bosom, the United States will be facing a coalition which will oblige it to think over its dual-containment policy."


CHINA: "A Gathering Of Unprecedented Size"

Lin Jiaoming commented in the official Communist Party People's Daily (Renmin Ribao, 12/12): "This year's Tehran conference (where Islamic nations demonstrate their strength and solidarity to the world) is the largest gathering since the organization began. For 18 years the United States has pursued a policy of isolation and containment against Iran.... After a French commercial company signed a contract with Iran and 15 EU ambassadors returned to Tehran, the United States had no recourse but to accept Iran's diplomatic victory. The isolation policy, which the United States had been exercising against Iran, failed at last."

THAILAND: "Don't Make World Tense--A Plea To The U.S. And Iran"

Pichian Kurathong commented in elite Matichon (12/12): "The United States should review its stance toward Iran. Its policy of containment blocking Iran from developing its oil resources has received but little support from the world community. The United States' failed policy became apparent when hordes of world Islamic leaders, including such close U.S. allies as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, converged to participate in the Tehran-hosted Organization of the Islamic Conference.... Already, a positive sign has emerged from the summit. Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdulla offered to mediate a reconciliation between the United States and Iran. It is, therefore, a good opportunity for the United States to review its Iran policy.... The United States should have realized that the current secular (sic) government of Iran is more open and conciliatory than ever, especially toward the West."


INDIA: "Hot Air From Tehran"

In the editorial view of the right-of-center Indian Express (12/11): "The turnout of leaders at the Organization of the Islamic Conference a diplomatic coup for Iran's new moderate leadership. It marks the end of Iran's inward-looking phase since its revolution of 1979 and the start of a more active role in world affairs. The remarkable feature of the gatherings is the presence of high-level representatives from Iraq, an old foe, and from Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan, which are the linchpins of Washington's Middle East strategy. The contrast between the Tehran conference and the Middle East economic summit sponsored by the United States a few weeks ago in Qatar could not be starker....

"Rhetoric aside, Tehran knows that building bridges in the Middle East and beyond require it to adopt moderate policies at home and abroad, avoiding the kind of postures that arouse suspicions among its neighbors about its regional ambitions and deny it access to Western technology and American, if not European, markets. The practical, level-headed President Mohammed Khatami appears to be just the man for the job."

Keywords:  Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Summit; Iran; Arabs-US Relations; Iran- US Relations; Iraq-US Relations; Middle East Peace Process
Thematic Codes:  1A
Languages:  English