The Arab League and Iranophobia Syndrome

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Mohammad Khajouei
Senior Middle East Analyst

The recent meeting of the Arab League offered an untouched picture of the critical situation in the Arab world. The 27th summit of the Arab League was held at the Mauritanian capital city of Nouakchott in the absence of many heads of important Arab states. The absentees included leaders of Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain and Egypt, where the Arab League is headquartered. Even the Palestinian Authority was not present, which is important taking into account that the Arab League was established about 70 years ago to focus on the situation of Palestinians in the face of Israel's occupationist policies.

It would not be exaggeration to say that even in the eyes of the Arab leaders the League has lost its efficiency and has turned into a titular institution, which has nothing to offer except for a bunch of statements.

To explain the disorderly situation within the Arab League it would suffice to note that the summit was supposed to be held about four months earlier in Morocco, but the country’s leaders withdrew from hosting the summit in protest to inaction of the Arab League and what they described as lack of suitable conditions for making decisions on important issues of the Arab world.

This disorderly situation in holding the Arab League summit came at a time that the entire Arab world is the scene of unprecedented intertwined security, political, economic and social crises, which await immediate and wise decisions by rulers and decision-making authorities in these countries.

Syria, whose membership at the Arab League has been suspended, is one of those Arab countries, which have been grappling with crisis. Syria is now a country grabbed by a war of attrition between its government and opposition groups and has turned into a ground for jockeying by many terrorist groups. The main consequence of this situation has been the death of about 300,000 people while millions more have been displaced and the country’s infrastructure has been seriously damaged.

Iraq is currently fighting against Daesh terrorists while at the same time grappling with major economic and political hardships.

Libya is another Arab country, which has been practically torn apart following the fall of the country’s former ruler, Muammar Gaddafi, and armed groups are ruling every corner of it while a couple of extremist groups are also present in the country.

Yemen is actually without an effective government and Saudi Arabia’s strikes against this country have only served to make the situation more critical there instead of helping solve its problems.

Somalia is a country, which has not had a government for many years, and is practically a playground for terrorist groups.

These are countries in the Arab world, which are considered to be in a state of red alert in security terms and are among the world’s most critical countries.

There are some other Arab countries, which may not be in such a critical situation, but nonetheless, are plagued with major problems. Bahrain is an Arab country whose leaders are moving fast in the direction of political repression and suppression of any opposition voice. Dissolving opposition parties, stripping opposition figures of their nationality and giving heavy jail terms to many political activists are evidence to this claim.

Egypt is currently experiencing a new era of dictatorship following a short period of relative openness after the fall of the country’s former ruler, Hosni Mubarak. As a result, Cairo is currently ready to even sell its soil in order to make up for domestic problems and overcome its existing economic crisis.

Lebanon is faced with the crisis, which has been spilling over into the Arab country from its war-wracked neighbor, Syria. In addition to bomb attacks and other security issues, Lebanon has been also faced with a deadlocked situation for choosing a new president, which is just one manifestation of the country’s critical conditions.

In the meantime, Palestine, which was once the most important issue of the Arab world, has seemingly turned into a secondary and insignificant matter, but it is still an open wound on the body of the Arab world.

What was said above is a cursory picture of the depth of the intertwined crisis with which Arab countries are currently facing. Now, the question is what serious and effective measure has the Arab League, as the most broad-based Arab organization, taken to overcome this critical situation? The summit meeting in Nouakchott clearly revealed the crisis with regard to common decision-making in the Arab world to overcome this situation.

Under conditions when the Arab world needs to pay more attention to its internal situation and take immediate measures to resolve the existing crises, effective institutions such as the Arab League and the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council have turned into tools in the hands of Saudi Arabia for settlement of political scores with Iran. Therefore, despite the multitude of problems that have been sweeping through the Arab world, the Arab League and its leaders have been overcome with an Iranophobia syndrome, instead of concentrating on how to resolve the aforesaid crises, and are just trying to introduce Iran as the main party to blame for these crises.

All told, it seems that Saudi Arabia’s success in drumming up anti-Iran approaches in the Arab world has not gone beyond a formal level and is simply a formality. In other words, Saudis have not been able to pitch Arab countries as much against Iran as they wanted. At the climax of the faceoff between Iran and Saudi Arabia, which occurred following the hanging of Saudi dissident cleric, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and after an attack on Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Tehran, apart from a number of small countries, most Arab states refrained from answering Saudi Arabia’s call for severing diplomatic ties with Iran.

At any rate, it is clear that highlighting anti-Iran approaches within the Arab League will not help its member states solve their main problem and is just some sort of projectionist effort. In fact, the output of the Arab League’s meetings, especially in recent years, has been nothing but a bunch of resolutions and statements containing a collection of general and ambiguous words without any executive backbone. On the whole, while gaps are widening among member states, on the one hand, and Saudi Arabia makes stronger efforts to take political advantage of the Arab League, on the other hand, the organization is seeing its power and influence on constant decline.

Key WordsThe Arab League, Iranophobia Syndrome, Arab World, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, Egypt, Nouakchott, Palestinians, Israel, Syria, Daesh, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Lebanon, (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, Khajouei

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*Five Points about Putting Iran on the US List of Sponsors of Terrorism:

*Saudi Arabia’s Honeymoon with US Is Over:

*Photo Credit: National News Agency