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In a new sign of shifting political dynamics and discord in the Middle East, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will skip an Arab summit in Doha this week. A lower level member of the Egyptian government will go in his stead to the summit, which is expected to be attended by a number of Arab leaders.
The summit promises to be full of intrigue based on Mubarak's decision not to attend and because Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's president who was recently indicted by the International Criminal Court, arrived in Qatar on Sunday.
Mubarak, who serves as something as Dean of the Arab leaders, is skipping because of recent tensions between Qatar and Egypt. Egypt has accused Qatar for supporting Iran and Qatar has criticized Egypt for its seeming support for the U.S. and Israel during the recent war in Gaza.
Qatar has taken a curious approach to diplomacy, refusing to take sides in the U.S.-Iran spitting match. The country, instead, hosts one of the largest U.S. military bases abroad while cozying up to Iran and blasting Israeli tactics in Gaza.
And the decision to allow al-Bashir to attend the summit without arresting him is sure to draw the ire of the Western powers.
Mubarak's decision not to attend is reflective of Qatar's frustratingly unconventional diplomatic approach. Much of the region has broken down into cabals, though Qatar hasn't allowed itself to be pegged as friend or foe by any one group.
Keep an eye on this summit. Though it may simply devolve into a yelling match over Bashir's attendance, watch for friction as different rivals come together — and watch for Qatar, as always, to perform its own odd diplomatic dance. More on the conference once it gets under way.