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In the wake of the Second World War, the presence of powerful international and regional organizations, which can preserve peace and play effective mediatory roles between nations, emerged as an imperative requirement to all nations. To address that global need, international organizations and regional leagues, such as the United Nations (UN), the League of Arab States (LAS) and the like, were instituted in many parts of the world.
On the international arena, the United Nations was established, on 24 October 1945, as a substitute for the inefficient League of Nations (LN), to promote international co-operation, prevent armed conflicts, settle international disputes and maintain world peace. Besides peace and security, its main objectives, as in its charter, were set to protect human rights, foster global human and socioeconomic development, support general health, preserve the environment, and provide humanitarian aid to all.
Seven month earlier, six Arab states (Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon) convened in Cairo, on 22 March 1945, bringing forth to the first Arab regional organization: the League of Arab States (LAS), widely known as the Arab League. The principal objectives of Arab League were to “draw closer the relations between member 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”.
In spite of the fact that few advanced countries had put a number of self-originated efforts to push for peace and promote development; the world is in a messy state while the United Nations and Arab League were inefficient and meager to cope with most issues. Disregarding that their objectives were reversed in which human development turned into impoverishment of the middle class, economic development turned into economic crises and high unemployment rates, social evolvement converted into extremism, intermediation twined with favoritism, cooperation transformed into dominance, and human rights became rights of might in a world where armed aggression and nuclearization became the unit of measuring state’s powerfulness.
Given the current degenerative conditions here and there, the bare fact is that the seventy-year-old UN and LAS have fell short to achieve their objectives thus and so failed to serve their founding principles. Fairly and squarely, while the UN had some successes and stack of failures, the Arab League record of success is empty—yet full of disappointments.
Bringing back into memory the tragedy of 1948 when Arab countries alongside the Arab League were unable to recapture the Palestinian land from Israel, nor were diplomatically shrewd enough to deal with the Palestinian cause on the international theater. Again, twenty-two years later, in September 1970, the Arab league, along with most Arab governments, were unable to find a solution to the dramatic armed conflict between Jordan and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which led to the expulsion of the armed PLO from Jordan to Lebanon and other neighboring countries.
Add up that the Arab league have also failed the Lebanese people, from the mid 70s to 1989, until they were able to reach a solution to Lebanon’s seventeen-year long civil-regional war. Over again, in 1990, the LAS and Arab counties could not manage to solve the Iraqi -Kuwaiti dispute over oil, which led to the foolish Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and its detrimental consequences on the Arab world. Time and again, the Arab world and its League came short to defuse the unjustified war on Iraq in 2003, or to contain the Syrian belligerence after their involuntary withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005, or to mediate a solution to the Sudanese problem long before the UN cut off South Sudan in 2011, or to de-escalate the ongoing Shiite insurrection in Bahrain.
Notwithstanding those tragic lessons, Arab League along with most Arab states repeated the same mistake in 2011, when they abandoned the Syrian people leaving more than twenty-four million Syrian to face Assad’s brutal regime and pro-Iranian paramilitary groups alone without real help, which opened the door for radical armed extremists. Actually, they did not dare to send Arab peacekeeping troops to stop the massacres and enforce peace in Syria before it turned into a regional Sunni-Shia war. To make it worse, Arab governments did not even consider freezing their diplomatic ties with Iran, Russia and China; or, at least, to put consequential economic pressure and restrictive trade measures on Russia and China at which they reconsider the cost of supporting Syria’s tyrant.
From Syria to Arabia to Morocco, Arab people denounce the dispiriting reality of the Arab League knowing that it is a reflection of uneven relations between most Arab states. Actually, the general political, economic and cultural levels of cooperation between many nations are below the baselines of ordinary formal relations. Nonetheless, when it comes to state-relations among one ethnos or league of states, Arab-Arab relations are very frail in spite of the flimsy cosmetic role of the Arab League.
A look at Arab interrelations will reveal, more or less, a case of mistrust, hidden antipathy and involuntary cooperation, most of which stem from the interference of one state in the national affairs of another. A closer look into Arab-Arab relations will unmask a history of confrontational relations and political conflicts during which the Arab League was a wary bystander. Among those old and renewed cases, there are some serious conflicts, which need special conciliatory efforts, like those of Syria and Iraq, Syria and Palestinian Authorities, Syria and Gulf countries, Syria and Egypt, Iraq and Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt, Egypt and Libya, Algeria and Morocco, and, of course, Syria’s malign interference in Lebanon’s affairs—not to discuss the recent diplomatic divorce between GCC and Qatar.
Alas, now as then, it seems that most Arab authorities are either unwilling or not resourceful enough to embody the common sociopolitical trends of Arab nationals. On top of that, the LAS keep proving day-after-day its incapability to deal with Arab issues—let alone its diplomatic incompetency to represent the Arab world on the international theater.
In view of such gloomy history, the roving question in Arab intellect is whether Arabs do retain the characteristics of a real nation, since language, religious rituals and geographic proximity are not enough to build a nation. Bearing in mind that the most important features of nations are more about having one political identity, one unified front in wartime and peace, compatible societal values, evenly benefit from their national wealth and resources, unrestrictive residency and travel measures across its states, stand together in crisis and share one destiny. Otherwise, what is the purpose?
Forthrightly, the old Arab dream of having a real and strong Arab nation is fading away as never before. Meanwhile, the majority of Arab people see the abandonment of Syrian people as the final episode of Arab’s long-played fiction: Arab national unity. By all odds, Arab leaderships have to consider one of two options in the approaching Arab Annual Summit in Kuwait, on 25th of this March. Either they revive Arab momentum to end the massacres in Syria—no matter what, or they should start digging the grave of Arab nationalism and its folkloric Arab League.
Author’s Note: This article is also published at Arabian Gazette