The Arab League in an era of urgency

Hassan Abou Taleb
Friday 29 Jul 2016

The Arab League must be revamped and restructured, according to Secretary General Ahmed Abul Gheit, but there is a lack of will among Arab states to do so

The Arab reality is marked by urgency; it lacks a compass, and is being infiltrated from all sides.

The urgency of Arabs does not need further explanation. Everything around us leads to this description, starting with the loss of key Arab countries that are now merely ink on a map, and ending with the lack of minimum consensus on Arab priorities in terms of action needed to achieve goals.

There is continued Arab ambiguity in defining terrorism, terrorists and what should be done in solidarity and collectively to face this monster, which is like a chameleon, and strikes everywhere. However, there is no Arab mechanism for confrontation that Arab countries abide by properly, and thus the status quo continues.

Each country prefers to fight terrorism individually and in the best case scenario, and when utterly necessary they exchange partial intelligence about terrorist acts and violent groups amongst themselves, but then the doors quickly shut, which prevents the accumulation of collective Arab experience in the battle. And so the problem continues to escalate and proliferate and is met with rising nonchalance which nurtures terrorism and its cancerous growth.

The previous Arab summit in Sharm El-Sheikh took a decision to form a Joint Arab Force to protect collective Arab security and a means to confront threats to Arab countries including pressure, attacks or assaults that target their existence. For almost 18 months there were meetings among senior Arab military officials to discuss the Arab resolution and translate it into a reality.

Despite a rocky start, it appeared matters were progressing until one Arab country, supported by others, suggested the issue should be deferred for further study. Everything ground to a halt as if the Arab world and each country was living the best security conditions, not facing any threats, and everything is under control. If one or more Arab countries used this logic, then it is certain they are living special conditions that are unrelated to the reality of Arabs and the region.

It is true that some Arab countries are under the protective umbrella of major world powers, but this is contingent on the whims of the protector. Some will wake up to a catastrophe if Donald Trump wins the US presidential election, since he is proposing US protection would only be extended to those who pay the price, which is a systemic and extended attrition of these parties who could find themselves forced to accept this blatant colonialist formula.

Since the world is living unprecedented political instability and confusion and the Middle East is prone to all bad and worse possibilities, it is wise for Arab countries to revert to a collective protection formula based on self-reliance in anticipation of what is to come in the very near future.

However, Arab reality is moving according to archaic factors as if nothing matters, including its own existence. There is no doubt that Arab instability is a key component of regional and international instability, and in some Arab countries instability and confusion are leading a push to self-destruction rather than self-preservation and protecting the lives of people.

Yemen talks in Kuwait between the legitimate government and rebel Houthi-Saleh forces continued for two months with negligible progress towards implementing UN resolutions.

In Syria, there is bloodshed among civilians, military, and armed militants –  mistakenly called moderate groups, but they have revealed their true colours, inhumanity and lust for blood when a degenerate from a group that receives generous US and Turkish support slaughtered a Syrian child in front of the whole world.

There is also death on a daily basis in Iraq and sectarian bias in power which is on the rise and threatens the very existence of a united federal Iraqi state. The same is true in Libya where terrorist groups, loyal to either ISIS or Libya’s Muslim Brotherhood, are expanding.

According to Arab custom during Arab summits, everyone looks for a paragraph in the final communique to confirm their position on a certain issue that serves their own interests and do not care about a common ground with the others. As a result of the complex, overlapping and complicated nature of pressing Arab issues, it would be difficult to reach collective united Arab positions on issues such as Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya and a joint Arab force. Or a fair assessment of the roles of regional players who are unduly interfering in Arab affairs such as Iran, Turkey and Ethiopia.

For example, there are those who view Iran as a source of evil and a threat, and believe Turkey which is ambitious for a caliphate as a partner that should be blindly supported – including accepting its fantasies and intervention in more than one Arab country without question.

Under such Arab circumstances, the summit in Mauritania was important. It was held in the greater Arab Maghreb but it did not change anything in the reality of Arabs. No summit will make any change until Arabs themselves change and end their haste first.

Hassan Abou Taleb is a consultant at the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. 

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