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Jane Arraf on changing attitudes in the Persian Gulf

arraf
Jane Arraf  

CNN Correspondent Jane Arraf has been in Manama, Bahrain, covering the summit of Persian Gulf leaders known as the Gulf Cooperation Council, including representatives from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and the United Arab Emirates.

Q: Why wasn't there much talk about the Israeli-Palestinian fighting at this year's conference?

ARRAF: The reality is the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council are not going to take much more of a position on the Mideast crisis than they already have. They've already blamed Israeli policies for the continued violence. At the conference this weekend, officials privately mentioned their discontent toward the U.S., accusing it of wavering support for Palestinians and unwavering support for Israel. Other than that, there isn't much more they will do.

Q: What is the general attitude among Persian Gulf nationals toward the United States?

ARRAF: Generally, I sense a deep anger in the streets in a lot of these countries about U.S. power and influence in the region.

Q: How does the GCC summit compare to the 2000 Islamic Summit in Doha, Qatar, which you covered just a month ago?

ARRAF: During both events, it was evident that Iraq has really divided the Arab world, even a decade after the Persian Gulf War. Iraq was a major topic of discussion at both the GCC summit and the Islamic Summit because there are widely differing views on the subject. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are not forgiving to Baghdad, obviously because Iraq invaded Kuwait and launched missiles into Saudi Arabia during the war. They expect certain things from Iraq before it can rejoin the circle of Arab nations. Other GCC members are more forgiving to Iraq now, as memories of the war subside and more attention is being paid to United Nations sanctions on Baghdad and the effects those sanctions continue to have on the Iraqi people.

Q: What evidence -- if any -- did you see during this summit reflecting social changes in the Arab world?

ARRAF: Many of the leaders are aging -- some are getting up into their 70s and 80s, and some of these princes and sultans from another era are being forced to deal with a modern world and modern problems. One option being undertaken is to pass power and responsibility on to their sons and their grandsons. Their decisions all seem very weighty: pressure to democratize, pressure for more freedom of speech and other things that people take for granted in the West. The reality is these are big ideas, and many of them will be difficult to deal with.



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