Responses to 2011 Uprisings Hurt Arab League Credibility

Article Summary
Masoud Daher documents the Arab League’s history of failures and underlines the errors it made in its reactions to the Arab revolutions. The author calls on the league to play a more constructive role in the Arab World.

Throughout its long history, the Arab League has come under harsh criticism countless times. This criticism was mainly due to the fact that the league was not formed to become an establishment independent of the Arab regimes, but one that announces the decisions made by these regimes. The league’s internal system is responsible for paralyzing its executive branch.  The internal system is also responsible for making the league vulnerable to the squabbling of the Arab countries.  These Arab countries are greatly dependent on the powerful forces that have immense influence in the Arab region and the Middle East, which plays a pivotal role in the global economy.

The Arab countries have failed to reach consensus over minor issues.  The Arab League has constantly focused on the disputes [between Arab states,] rather than their agreements on particular issues.  Furthermore, the Arab countries have not reached any agreement on a single reformist project that could be adopted or executed by the league.

Since independence, the Arab region has been divided into sections. Each section chose to be an ally of either the United States or the USSR, which were the main players in the global struggle.   For a short period of time, the Arab countries first emerged as an effective force in the Non-Aligned movement and then experienced defeat in the [Arab-Israeli Six Day War] of 1967.
In the wake of the October 1973 war, the Camp David Accord delivered a painful blow to Arab solidarity and the Arab League. [In 1976] following the [signature of the] Camp David Accord, the Arab League moved its headquarters [from Cairo] to Tunisia, having suspended Egypt’s membership [in response to its signature of a peace treaty with Israel]. It did so despite the fact that Egypt was the engine of the Arab world in times of peace and at war.

After the Cold War, Camp David succeeded in dragging the majority of the Arab countries into supporting the Greater Middle East project, a term coined by the United States, or the New Middle East project, as described by Israel. Camp David was successful in drawing a large number of Palestinians to engage in arbitrary negotiations that led to real gains for Israel in return for fake concessions by the Palestinians. Under these circumstances, Syria was forced to fight a battle for its existence and defend its presence as a sovereign independent state, capable of regaining control of its occupied lands through peaceful means, given the absence of a military decision calling for confrontation. At that time, Syria’s position was weak due to the lack of an international balance of power, especially since the United States was the sole power leading the new international arena. Despite its close alliance with Iran and its short-term alliance with Turkey, Syria was besieged by Arab countries following the US occupation of Iraq in 2003.
With the advent of the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled the leaders of four Arab countries in 2011, serious preparations were underway to topple the Syrian regime as part of a great project prepared by the United States, Europe, and Israel.  These forces intended to implement a scenario similar to the one seen in Libya to overthrow Qaddafi, through a NATO military intervention backed by the United States.  The Arab League entered as a player in the Syrian crisis and contributed to aggravating the situation instead of solving it.

The leadership of the Arab League proved that it is incapable of making an independent political decision due to its internal system. This system prevents the league from punishing any Arab country except if a consensus is reached among its members. Its leadership is also under the control of the oil-rich countries that were granted millions of US dollars to overthrow the Syrian regime. The Arab League was not expecting the emergence of international opposition, represented by Russia and China, which vetoed imposing sanctions on Syria at the UNSC – in contrast to the precedent set by Libya. As a result, the role of the league was disrupted and it became a target of severe criticism by Arab countries. At times, these countries guided the league and when the league failed to implement their political schemes, they strongly attacked it. The league took strict measures against the Syrian regime under the guise of the regime’s inability to end the crisis that has been ongoing for months. Also, the league reiterated its call on the Syrian regime to end violence, withdraw the armed forces from the streets, release the detainees, and hold a serious dialogue with the opposition at the Arab League headquarters. A number of Arab and Western countries supported the league for exerting effort to end the Syrian crisis and to prevent any form of intervention. These countries also urged Syria to engage in direct negotiations and to start the implementation of the terms of the Arab League initiative.  Furthermore, several rational statements were issued calling on the Syrian Government and the opposition to positively collaborate to reach a balanced political settlement intended to protect the sovereignty and unity of the Syrian territories and people. Also, ensure that the league plays an advanced role in the future as a vital player in resolving conflicts between Arab nations.   The league exerted efforts on the international level to facilitate convergence of views between the government and the opposition. Through these efforts, the league was planning on calming the internal situation in Syria to pave the way for the implementation of much-needed reforms accepted by the opposition. It also believed that it was able to establish a new stage, build a new relationship between the government and Syrian society on the basis of constructive democratic dialogue, and end all forms of armed clashes that will lead to a civil war and destroy the nation at large.

However, the league committed a grave mistake when it announced the suspension of Syria’s membership, called its members to withdraw their ambassadors from Damascus, and imposed sanctions on Syria in an attempt to force it to accept the peace initiative that it [the league] had proposed. Both the Syrian Government and the people strongly condemned the Arab League measures. As a result, mass demonstrations were staged to announce their discontent over the league’s decisions and its unjust stances against the Syrians, made under the pretext of defending [the safety of the Syrian people].

It is worth noting that suspending Syria’s membership from the league is not only illegal but also a flagrant violation of the Arab League charter.  The aim behind the suspension of Syria’s membership is to topple the regime through foreign intervention, similar to the way Qaddafi’s regime was toppled.  Yet, the leadership of the Arab League did not give importance to the role and influence of Syria in the Middle East and that powerful international countries, like China and Russia, will not allow the regime in Syria to fall and hand over the Middle East region to the Americans.

The Arab League lead itself to complete failure and now lies in a coma, having violated its charter, its internal system, and its role as an Arab institution established to solve the Arab disputes, instead of aggravating them. Having done these things, the league lost its former image and is no longer considered as a forum for Arab solidarity, but rather the catalyst for [inter-]Arab disputes, which could break out in several Arab countries. Many questions have emerged: What is the fate of the league, given its failure to propose initiatives to save the people of Libya, Yemen, and Syria? Does the league’s leadership enjoy the trust of the Arab leaders, [although] it lost the trust of the Arab revolutionary masses when they realized that it was colluding with the United States and Europe to reintroduce colonialism to the Arab world as a way to save the nations from their rulers? Is the Arab League today capable of holding an Arab League Summit that includes the Arab leaders – even though it is incapable of ensuring that these leaders will have an influential position in the Middle East’s new orde?

The league will continue to be the place to solve certain issues encountered by the Arab countries. For this reason, we should not rush to judge the league [based on its latest performance]. We should help it regain the trust it has lost, so that it may once more be capable of taking decisions to unite the Arabs instead of dividing them, strengthening their unity instead of destroying it, and maintaining the independence and sovereignty of the Arab countries instead of attracting foreign powers to control them.

Found in: nato, history, gulf

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