Joint-Arab army: an answer to regional instability?

Joint-Arab army: an answer to regional instability?
Analysis: The Arab League is to discuss war in Yemen and creating a new joint-Arab force to tackle regional crises. But will it solve Syria, the Middle East's biggest disaster?
3 min read
26 March, 2015
Arab heads of state are due to meet in Egypt this weekend [AFP/Getty]

Arab ministers are gathering in Egypt ahead of an Arab League summit which is set to be dominated by war in Yemen and proposals for a joint Arab military force to deal with the worsening security situation in the region.

Yemen's president Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi earlier this week asked the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council "to provide immediately all means necessary, including military intervention, to protect Yemen and its people".

Violence has been spreading across the country since last year when the Houthi militia seized the capital Sanaa and effectively removed Hadi.

The Arab League's core aims have been to draw closer relations and coordinate collaboration between member states, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty and to consider interests of the Arab countries.

Saudi warplanes began bombing Houthi rebels in Yemen on Wednesday evening.

The UAE, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain has joined Saudi Arabia in answering Hadi's request "to protect Yemen and its people from the aggression of the Houthi militias" who were "a tool in the hands of foreign powers meddling with... brotherly Yemen".

Egypt, too, announced political and military support, sayiung it would commit "air and naval forces and ground troops if necessary".

Arab foreign ministers on Thursday held preparatory meetings over military coordination before heads of state arrived in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on 28-29 March to discuss the conflicts in the region.

The Arab League states signed a military defence pact in 1950 to counter Israel, but bloc's chief Nabil al-Arabi has said a new type of force is needed, with a new mandate to counter the region's new threats.

The long-floated idea was revived by Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, to combat militants from the IS group who have established a foothold in Libya and control large parts of Iraq and Syria.

The joint force proposal has also been thrust into the spotlight by Hadi's call for regional intervention.

The Syrian plight

The Arab League was quick to respond to Hadi's request, but it is difficult to not raise questions regarding the lack of action in Syria's plight.

For years Arab states had contented themselves with directing proxies in regional struggles. But Syria's struggle seems to be one continuously overlooked. 

The league suspended Syria's membership in November 2011 over the government's failure to end its violent crackdowns on pro-democracy protests.

The move was aimed at increasing international pressure on the Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad. However, the Syrian war is now in its fifth year, with 220,000 estimated dead.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Monday that the people of Syria felt "increasingly abandoned by the world" as focus switched elsewhere.

Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi, who is overseeing a report on a joint military force to present to the regional leaders, said the summit's main focus should be the "terrorist" threat.

A new campaign launcyhed by 85 Syrian civil society groups, titled 'Planet Syria', says that Syrians have been "abandoned" by an international community preoccupied with extremism rather than the war's daily horrors, adding that IS would not be stopped in Syria long as the violence inside the country continues.