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The Arab League is a redundant institution

Published on 18 December 2012, by M. Tomazy.
By The M., Weblog Co-author
“Dear Secretary General of the Arab League in Cairo, you bear the responsibility after you left my soldiers at the peak of their victory with no weapons or help whatsoever.”
Abdul-Qader Al-Husayni, 4th of April 1948. A day before he got murdered.

This is the Arab League;a supposedly great unitary project founded in 1945, however, did not write in its preamble the foundation of its success but left it to destiny.The failure of the Arab League started ever since it was founded, and still failing as these lines are being written, and will probably remain to fail. The twenty two Arab states all together failed to face some crucial issues such as the Palestinians cause, Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq. Those issues made the Arab League a not very trusted institution that lacks effectiveness. Even though that one of the Arab League’s chief purposes –as embodied in the pact, was the domestic and foreign coordination, however, its power was not to be great (Seabury 636). According to article VIII, the members of the league were “forbidden” to take any action tending to alter the regime of any other member state. It is ironic how this article contradicts with everything the Arab world is going through nowadays, as regimes are being overthrown with the help of other member states of the league. This is one simple example of how the League of Arab States is a redundant institution. The failure of the Arab league comes from the unproductive role of the member states, because there is no member state or a group of member states are willing to stand up and grip the task of pressuring the rest of the member states for the sake of common good and bear the responsibility of the dereliction of this unitary project.

To be an Arab today means to be subject to four main phases. The first phase is September 11, 2001; the phase when George Bush decided to fight the Islamic and the Arab world as a reaction to an act was done by people who do not represent the Arab world whatsoever. Therefore, Bush decided to punish the Arab and Muslim world by waging two wars, one on Afghanistan and the other one on Iraq. The second phase is the phase of what is so called the ‘Arab Spring’ which is the series of revolutions took place in the Arab world. Such revolution occurred in the early 20th century when Sharif Hussein of mecca collaborated with the British and revolted against the Ottomans. The outcome of the Sharif Hussein revolution was the loss of Palestine and Sykes-Picot. The third phase is the democratization phase; however, many Islamists think that democracy is not compatible with Islam. The fourth and the final phase is the renaissance phase of Arabs. Ever since the 20th century and even the late 19th century with Al-Afghani and Mohammed Abdo; Arabs have been calling for an Arab and Islamic renaissance. All of the previous phases represent a historic juncture. However, the Arab league is not to be seen effective in any of them and its presence does not actually make a significant difference.

On a regional cooperation level, there is no doubt or in other words, it is not arguable that the Middle East’s main institutional framework, which is the Arab League, is a total bleak experience(Pinfari 6). The failure of the Arab League can be addressed in two points. First, when the Arab league was established, it was not based on the Arab leaders will to unify and to look after their people’s interests. However, it was originated based on a foreign will and it was in their interest to establish the Arab League. The Arabs did not mind for the Arab and foreign interests to meet. Unfortunately, the foreign interest has always been the main focus and axis of the leagues activities, whether the member states were aware of it or not. The representatives of the league seemed to be prepared to play roles of a game that was exposed afterwards. According to (Hudson) the project of the Arab unity was and still a disappointment, because the league was derived by backward mentalities, and those mentalities were looking after their personal greedy interests. To illustrate, and in sentimental ruminations about the past, Palestine is just one example of the selfishness of the Arab League. When Palestinians were in Jerusalem and felt that the city was about to collapse, they sent cries of distress asking for the League of Arab states’ help. The response was that Palestinians should withdraw from the city if they feel endangered. If the Palestinians actually fled and left it to the Israelis to take over, the world now would see the columns of the Solomon’s temple on the ruins of Al-Aqsa mosque and the Church of the Resurrection.

“The League, in other words, seems to incarnate the ambiguities of  the pan-Arab project at its height, trapped between the quest for Arab unity and the centrifugal forces favouring Arab separatism” (Zacher 161).  The Arabs are separate because of the self-contempt since they look up to the west as people of power and the west took good advantage of that, the colonial powers’ directions for the Arab League were and still well heard. Nowadays, besides falling asleep during the summits, the member states of the Arab League are doing a good job at satisfying the public emotionally with their well-written speeches, for instance, for Palestinians, they give them victory in one speech, and defeat in a battlefield.To illustrate,between 1945 and 2008, the league mediated in 19 out of 56 crisis and conflicts that took place in the Arab world during that time. However, they achieved full success in only 5 occasions, out of 56 (Pinfari10).

It is such a shame on the Arab league that they fail in solving the Syrian crisis and ask for the help of the Security Council. It is such a shame that this fail has been taking place for more than 60 years. It failed in Palestine, and not only in terms of the Arab Israeli conflict, because it also failed in the Palestinian internal reconciliation. The Arab league could not stand in the way of Camp David, could not protect Iraq from the American invasion and the series of failures are taking place as these words are being written.
This fiasco is caused by the fact that the Arab League has always been considered as a common thing among Arabs rather than a unifying tool. Therefore, each state’s interest was the priority for its representatives. The leagueis not considering to initiate a step forward for a real practical fruitful cooperation, because it threats the states’ interests. What would work out for one state might harm another. Yet, if the representatives of the member states thought about the collective interests for the Arab nations, they would never have a conflict in interests.
The former plenipotentiary of the Arab league Ahmed Sharafeddine("Al-Malaf"), argued that running the league is subject to the ideology adapted by the general secretary’s home country. He added that he witnessed the time when Mahmoud Riad was the secretary general and the time when Shazli Al-Qulaiby was the secretary general, and that there was a huge difference between both ideologies in terms of managing the league. This structural problem contradicts with the league’s main objective of a unified Arab world, especially that this is a regional organization that includes the Arab world as a whole.
Founding an international organization or a regional one requires deep attention to the precise details. The Arab league had structural issues in terms of relying on non-highly qualified personnel, and by that making it incapable of accomplishing achievements in parallel to achievements reached by others such as the European Union. For instance, the representative of the Arab League in Washington during 1966 could not speak proper English, and as mentioned previously, the secretary generals did not have one unified strategy to run this institution. Those secretary generals are not keeping in mind that a man of the 20th century cannot be defeated by a man of the 15th century, and gathering nations for a one clear cause is much more effective than gathering them under the name of Arabism and vague goals.In the last summit, which took place in Baghdad, all the twenty resolutions were limited to condemning, supporting and assuring actions or people. None of the resolutions was about taking action towards an issue, especially that the Arab world was the highlight of the year of 2011 and 2012.

Consequently, the league’s failure should not be considered just as a failure of the Arab states, it also a failure of a wide-spread belief that such a local arrangement can actually form and shape the basis for regional stability and peace. Whether with the existence of the league or not, the Arab states would have more cooperative integration with their neighbor states through effective enhanced legitimacy. If the Arab states decentralized themselves off the spot and gave distinctive ethnic, sectarian and regional sub-communities a sense of security and justice, the states would be unified and therefore ready for a regional integration. The league needs to go through a drastic process of institutional reforms, for instance, it should address the functional overlap between its major bodies such as the Council, the Political Committee and also the Summit meetings. Another important thing, the league should and needs to reinforce the powers of the Secretariat and give them one path to follow, one constitution to implement, because in many occasions when the position of Secretary General was held by charismatic, charming and respected figures; it has proven to be anactive and effective body in mediating regional crises.


  • "Al-Malaf." Al-jazeera. Public broadcasting station: 18 2009. Television.
  • Hudson, Michael . "Why the Unity Project Failed ." Trans. Array Middle East Dilemma .   Tauris  & Co. Ltd, 1999. Print.
  • Pinfari, Marco. "Nothing but Failure?The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council as Mediators in Middle Eastern Conflicts." London School of Economics      and Political Science . 45.ISSN 1749-1797 (2009): 1-18. Print.
  • Seabury, Paul. "International organization." International organization. 3.4 (2008): 633-     642. Print.
  • Voll, John. "Islam and Democracy: Is Modernization a Barrier?." Journal. (2006): 170-      178. Print.
  • Zacher, Mark. International Conflicts and Collective Security, 1946-77: The United  Nations, Organization of American States, Organization of African Unity, and  Arab League.. New York: 1979. 160-161. Print.