The Arab Summit held in Saudi Arabia was one in which Arab leaders confessed to errors they have made. But it must be borne in mind that these errors are not simply mistakes, but sins for which an entire generation of Arabs have paid for in blood, underdevelopment and a future of insecurity.
And since those in attendance at the Riyadh Summit used the occasion to confess error, the meeting must be seen as one of the most successful in the history of such Arab gatherings. During previous Summits, ready-made recipes were presented and approved despite the poison and pollution they contained, and for which many countries and peoples paid a very heavy price.
One of the most startling confessions was one made by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who admitted that Arab states had lent legitimacy to Iraq's occupation by accepting its membership in the Arab League, even though according to the U.N. Security Council, the country's de-facto ruler was American Paul Bremer. Since that day the sectarian way of doing business espoused by the notorious Governing Council - appointed by Bremer - was lent legitimacy by the Arabs, and was like a dream come true for the United States.
But in a climate with war looming, with the Americans holding a carrot in one hand and a stick in the other - and U.S. warplanes and warships heavily felt in the region, the Arabs buckled under the pressure. As a result, the Arabs gave quick and easy approval to things that were not in the interests of the Iraqi people, who were subject to destruction and cut off from the surrounding Arab countries for years.
But this moment of confession comes too late, as Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz's made clear in his statement that Iraq's "illegitimate" occupation and the sectarian strife it caused has destabilized the entire region, which will ignite again if tensions over Iran's nuclear file lead to war.
Arab leaders have finally ascertained that they have lost Iraq as an integral part of their political and regional environment. This is not because Iraqi leaders or the occupiers want to see the country cut off from its Arab roots, but because worsening security makes a revival of the country almost impossible.
Just the safe arrival of an Arab ambassador to Baghdad has come to be regarded as a major achievement, while hundreds of ambassadors and diplomats circulate freely throughout the rest of the region and the world without it ever being an issue.
The new government in Baghdad has "exported" millions of Iraqi refugees to the Arabs, which has strained their economic and social resources and affected their domestic affairs. For decades, Jordan and Syria were home to the world’s largest communities of Palestinian refugees. They are now also home to millions of Iraqis.
Arab leaders have come to understand the consequences of their errors, which made it easy for alien occupiers to destroy an Arab country. But the opportunity for penitence has passed. Their expressions of sorrow have come too late.