Ineffective Arab League

ByMalik Nasir Mahmood Aslam

Seasoned social activist


October 2, 2022

Arab League

Malik Nasir Mahmood Aslam describes a

The Israeli violence against unarmed Palestinians continues unabated and the so-called collective union of Arab states, the Arab League, consistently remains a silent spectator bringing to fore the sad state of affairs prevailing in the troubled region. Despite being rich in resources and armed to the teeth the countries of the Middle East have not been able to forcefully activate their representative body to decisively influence matters.

Arab League was the outcome of the rise of Arab nationalism after the fall of Ottoman Empire that liberated the areas inhabited by the Arabs in the Middle East and adjoining areas. The Arab nationalists, however, could not isolate monarchical states from the wider idea of Pan Arabism while creating an Arab block. Resultantly, this was formed in 1945 in which Arab states of Arabia, North Africa and Horn of Africa were included. Initially it consisted of six members Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Syria.

This was one of the first established regional organisations that ultimately consisted of 22 states with the aim to draw closer the relations between Arab states and co-ordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries.

With the passage of time this was often criticised for its failure to justify the very premise of its existence as it was not able to solve issues for it was created. Over the years, Arab League’s unifying slogan one Arab nation with an eternal mission has steadily muted and it has lost its status as a representative body and has lost approval of the Arab world.

Arab League And Crises In The Middle East

The gradual degradation of the organisation could be gauged from the fact that in 2016 Morocco initially postponed the annual leader’s summit and then finally scrapped it altogether. The Moroccan statement about the matter was quite eye-opening: “Amid the lack of important decisions and concrete initiatives to submit to the heads of states, this summit will be just another occasion to approve ordinary resolutions and to pronounce speeches that give a false impression of unity”. In a sad reflection of the organisation, in the end only seven of the league’s 22 leaders attended the meeting subsequently held in Mauritania.

It is also observed that any subsequent sessions of Arab League will fail to bridge the political divide as its role has become irrelevant in the ongoing crises in the Middle East. And it is usually assumed that League was afflicted with paralysis since the 2000s and that proved to the unprecedented aspect of the organisation.

It has been always subjected to sporadic forays of unity usually spurred by fierce opposition to Israeli actions and then falls into unending spurts of disunity owing to internal squabbles within the states such as Egypt in 1978 when Anwar Sadat visited Israel ditching all other Arab states and Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990.

Actually a real geopolitical shift occurred in 2000s when US power in the region reached its high point as it was seen desperately bent upon destroying Iraqi regime despite the opposition of Arab League. In all probability American hegemony in the region has seen its best days as is evident by a resurgent Iran and the breaking out of Arab Spring and subsequent policies of Arab states. Washington is gradually distancing itself from active involvement in the region and is focusing more towards Asia.

Intra-League Rivalries

Despite the rather free space given to this League to fill-in the void it has been unable to fill it in appropriately. The intra-League rivalries have become its bane coupled with the fact that its member countries suffer from internal sovereignty problems. The significant failure of the organisation pertains to its ditching of Hezbollah denying the basic tenet of its existence and subsequently failing to secure a role in Jerusalem debate.

It also is obvious that Arab League’s inefficiency is not the outcome of external factors as outside powers have a long history of shifting loyalties in quest of their changing priorities. As a matter of fact the geopolitical factors have a substantial role to play in the decline of the League. With the demotion of Iraq, Syria and Egypt as major players in the region the pan-Arab politics has shifted decisively towards the Saudi camp. Saudi forays into Yemen taken with the aim to counter growing Iranian influence in the region has changed its dynamics altogether. The foreign powers are averse to rebalancing the region leaving it to its own mechanics.

Arab League’s continued existence despite it being unfanged is primarily due to the propensity of regional alliances to linger on irrespective of their relevance. It is a cumbersome task to dissolve a regional entity because it usually signifies the failure of member nations about their intentions which nation states do not like to admit. The notion that Arabism is still a potent glue to hold Arab nations together may be one of the reasons of the existence of Arab League though the realistic scenario is fast making it redundant. The Weekender


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