The Arab-Israeli conflict becomes the Arab-Arab conflict

The Arab-Israeli conflict becomes the Arab-Arab conflict
Comment: No longer are Arabs fighting Israel, instead they are killing each other.
5 min read
24 Feb, 2015
Arabs have turned against Arabs, says Adel Soliman [AFP]
The late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat made a famous statement during the peace process with Israel, in which he described the October 1973 war as "the last war".

Sadat meant it would be the last Arab war with Israel, and his statement caused a stir - not only in Egypt, but across the Arab world.

Forty years after Sadat's comments, his prediction has been largely correct - as no real war has taken place between Israel and its Arab neighbours, or even Arab countries further afield.

     Sadat described the October 1973 war as 'the last war'.

This has been the case despite numerous Israeli aggressions on Lebanon, Gaza, Syria and the West Bank.

These operations have not reached the level of a full-scale war between traditional armies. However, they are considered to be low-level conflicts between the state of Israel, that has used a modern and regular army to launch attacks, and non-state actors such as Hizballah in Lebanon and Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Regardless of the heroism and capabilities of the military wings of these armed groups, their capacity to inflict losses on the enemy, and the endurance of the popular base of their resistance, their operations against Israel do not equate to traditional wars between regular armies.

The last of these Israeli aggressions was the 51-day war against Gaza in the summer of 2014.

Four wars, countless hostilities

The Arab-Israeli conflict included four traditional wars fought between regular armies in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973. The October 1973 was the only one the Arabs came out of with their heads held high.

However, what Sadat did not say or perhaps did not predict was that while the October war was the last traditional Arab-Israeli war, the Arab world was entering the era of Arab-Arab conflicts.

Ironically, Sadat himself heralded this new era by launching a four-day war against Libya in July 1977. More than a decade later, the Arab-Arab conflict stepped up a notch with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990.

The invasion was led by Saddam Hussein, who announced Kuwait's annexation as the 19th Iraqi governorate and which Iraq continued to occupy for seven months.

Kuwait was finally liberated by the US-led Operation Desert Storm. A total of 34 countries participated after resolutions were passed by the UN Security Council and the Arab League.

Kuwait's liberation was another episode in the Arab-Arab conflict as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria all took part in the international coalition against Iraq.

After this, the Arab world was engulfed in tension and the region was divided between the resistance and the moderation axes.

The fall of Baghdad

Non-state actors such as armed groups in Palestine and south Lebanon also rose to prominence, along with jihadi groups such as al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Between the Kuwait war and the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, there were no direct military confrontations in the Arab-Arab conflict, but the US and British military bases scattered around the Gulf played an important role in the invasion of Iraq.

The disastrous fall of Baghdad on 9 April 2003 to coalition forces, although expected, was a severe blow to the Arab world.

It recalled the historical narrative of the Mongol invasion and the fall of Baghdad - the seat of the Abbasid caliphate - on 10 February 1258, and the killing of Caliph al-Mutasim.

Shaken Arab regimes looked for ways to remain in power either through foreign alliances or by developing their internal policies. Regimes increased their iron grip while waving the carrot of political reforms that remained unimplemented promises.

     Every group believe it represents 'true Muslims' and has a duty to kill the other.

Arab populations, especially the youth, aspired to real change while the US pumped out advanced technological ideas about democracy, good governance and other ideals.

Developments in the Arab region continued until they reached their peak in January 2011, with the start of the Arab Spring. However, once again, the Arab-Arab conflict reared its head in the form of internal conflicts of a sectarian and ethnic nature, such as those seen in Iraq and Yemen.

These internal conflicts developed due to the intervention of several foreign actors and the appearance of extremist Islamist groups that adopt violence and terrorism as their mode of operation.

These Islamist groups went on to take control of wide areas in Iraq and Syria and to announce the establishment of the "Islamic caliphate", as in the case of the Islamic State group (IS, formerly known as Isis).

The US has called for a regional and international coalition to fight IS, which has set the whole region ablaze.

Arabs fighting on Arab land

Interestingly, the conflict is taking place on Arab lands and every main party in the conflict is Arab, whether state or organisation. People are now being killed for the identity assigned to them by someone else - "terrorist", "apostate", "rejectionist", "Kharijite" [a member of a rebellious group from early Islam].

Every group believe it represents "true Muslims" and has a duty to kill the other.

Countries attack organisations they consider to be terrorists, and organisations attack countries they consider to contain apostates, and countries have been torn apart with different parts fighting each other, while each group considers other groups to be Kharijites.

In the end, all Arabs are killing all Arabs.

Borders have no meanings and the theatre of war now includes cities, towns, villages and the countryside. One side carries the "war on terror" slogan while the other carries the "jihad against the apostates" slogan in a mad war that is part of the Arab-Arab conflict.

A confict which has replaced the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.