I. Brief Historical Background
The Arab League is officially known as the League of Arab States that was founded on the 22nd of March, 1945, that was largely created through the initiation of Egyptian government. It is not therefore surprising that Cairo became the League’s official headquarters which was interrupted for ten years due to Egypt’s treaty with Israel (“Arab League”). Various Arab states participated and convened in Cairo to develop the political, economic and cultural ties among state within the region (“Pact of the League of Arab States”, 2008).
Its initial aim was essentially based on assisting fellow Arab states to gain liberation from being subjected to foreign rule. The Arab states are generally united in opposing Israeli occupation in the region and part of its early intentions was to block Israel from establishing as a state. Failure of such an endeavour in 1948 made a heavy blow on the League’s ability to pursue its cause.
A large part of the League’s responsibility is to promote stability in the Middle East which has been sorely saddled with several in-fighting among Muslim states as well as those that involved with third parties.
Upon the following years after its foundation, the Arab League focused on fostering economic and social development of its member state. A major effect of the cooperation among Arab states is the creation of a managed trading among Arab petroleum way back in 1959 (“League of Arab States”, 1998) that lead to a coordinated control on oil prices that held the entire world market in its own terms.
The League recognizes the right of each, and decisions are thereby resolved through voting where each member represents a single vote within the organization’s Council. Disagreements have often checkered the relations among Muslim states which gravely hampered the league’s function, particularly those concerns which consist of warring political agendas.
II. Method of Settling Conflicts
In order to achieve its purpose and maintain harmony between relations among member states of the Arab League, all parties are subject to the body’s ruling to resolve existing or future disagreements through peaceful means. By peaceful means, the organization believes that it should adhere to avoiding any use of military force and therefore must be bound to political and diplomatic process in settling disputes. Legally, the members have a venue of expressing and presenting their position and grievances that are stated within the Charter’s V Article, with the final aim of arriving on conflict resolutions between two opposing parties. Embodied within the provision include:
The Arab League anticipates the inevitable rise of disagreement even amongst Muslim brother states, especially where it concerns the pursuance of interests of a member state that conflicts with other members within the League. But in order to prevent it from developing into bigger crisis through the outbreak of war, the organization has the authority to intervene and impose peaceful means through mediation.
But there are many limitations to this provision which has also greatly affected the affectivity of the League Council concerning such matters. In not a few instances, such means had been challenged by various factors such as the willingness of each concerned parties to submit to the sovereignty of the organization, as well as other outside pressures.
Resorting to court arbitration is largely dependent on the state involved in the dispute. Nowhere does the League’s charter provide to coerce its members to submit to judicial process under the League’s Council regardless of the severity of the problem.
There is also a lack of condition upon the League’s terms to penalize the member state that refuse to abide upon decisions and resolutions that evolved out of mediation process. This has been widely seen as a major cause of weakness for the effectiveness of the process of settling disputes (Dhabi, 2006).
III. Points of Conflict
There were various circumstances which posed a great challenge to the very relevance of the League’s existence. The main issues can generally be summed into these categories:
· Border issues
· Relations with Israel
· Religious factions causing political tensions
· The formation and promotion of allies that will help advance their own interest
These disagreements have often escalated to wars that became prominent in various incidents in the region’s history which includes the following actions by the Arab League’s member states:
Iraq: In 1948, Iraq joined Arab States in the war against Israel. But after their humiliating defeat, it did not participate in such wars. In 1955, it even joined Britain, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan in a defense alliance called the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO), or the Baghdad Pact. This treaty was viewed with contention by other Arab countries, seeing it as a possible threat to the Arab’s cause. This pact was really aimed against Egypt’s anti-British president Nasser, whom the Western powers wanted to check. But when the Iraqi monarchy was ousted by military leaders, the new policy turned anti-West and pro-Egypt.
Meanwhile, Arab neighbours experienced much trouble with Iraq. In 1961, it refused to recognize the independence of Kuwait. After the war with Iran, Iraq began to set its eyes on Kuwait, with whom it has had a border grievance for ages. Kuwait was only carved out of Iraq by the British colonial officials who drew the present-day territorial boundaries between the two countries on lines in the desert. So, ever since Kuwait and Iraq were separated, Iraq claimed that it lost a rich avenue to the Persian Gulf when Kuwait was formed. Together with UN and Western powers, the Allied Arab international military operations sent troops, tanks, planes and warships to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait. But the current war in Iraq and the death of Pres. Saddam Hussein has evoked rage among fellow Arab countries.
Lebanon: A Lebanon Crisis in 1958 caused great conflicts within and among other Arab states. The nation was greatly divided by religious factions that define the external alliance by which the country will build. Lebanese Christian and Muslims almost divided the country through a civil war, since the Christians led by Pres. Chamoun, wanted the entire country to side with Western powers. In contrast, pressures from Muslims wanted the government to keep its alliance strictly with Arab nations (Gerges, 1993).
Egypt: In 1975, the Israelis returned oil fields and two mountain passes to the Egyptians in exchange for passage of Israeli ships through the Suez Canal. On November 19, 1977 President Sadat of Egypt made a historic visit to Israel and addressed the Knesset (parliament). Israel Prime Minister Menachem Begin returned his visit at Ismaili, Egypt on Dec. 25-26. By March 24, 1979 Egypt and Israel signed a historic peace treaty, their first. Israel retuned the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and the two countries have since lived in peace with each other. This greatly angered the Arab community and Egypt was dismissed in the League’s membership, and prompting the Council to move its headquarters to Tunis. Egypt was re-accepted as member ten years later, on 1989.
Saudi Arabia: Its foreign policy is notable for developments which includes the oil cartel, the Arab support for Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War. Oil is used as a weapon in the Arab-Israeli conflict although they stopped joining the war with Israel after 1948; the Saudis gave moral support to the other Arabs. For instance, they banned oil shipments to the US and other countries supporting Israel. After that, they raised the price of oil from $7 to $14/barrel. This skyrocketing in the price of oil caused a worldwide economic crisis and hyper-inflation for most countries.
During the Iran-Iraq War, the Saudis have led other Arabs in supporting the Iraq government. The Saudis, who belong to the Strict Wahabi Sunni sect, hate and fear the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran who leads the minority Shiite sect. The Saudis gave $4 billion a year to the Iraq war effort. But when the Desert Storm War began on January 16, 1991, Iraq fired a series of Scud missiles against Saudi Arabia.
Palestine: Troubles in Israel and Palestine had become sources of more wars, which had involved the Big Powers. PLO’s entrance to the League as Palestine’s official representative caused opposition from Jordan. The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) led by Yasser Arafat and the prime minister of Israel, General Yitzhak Rabin, singed a historic peace accord at the White House in Washington, D.C. to end decades of war, terrorism and enmity between the Arab and the Jews. The strained relations need the continual support to negotiate differences through peaceful means, such as the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative (Zaide et al., 2004, p. 111-142).
Arab states are united by common mistrust against the West and animosity for Israelis, but conflicts among Arab nations is not uncommon. Common areas of Arab disputes arise from differing political positions that are highly influenced by its leaders. Most of these conflicts are expressed in emotionally charged encounters that often baffle observers through western perspective. It is often characteristic of the Arab culture which is intrinsic within their system of relations. Charged with a competitive spirit, dispute can rise between brothers, but the same brothers can band together to fight a relative, and the brothers and the relative will band together against foreign threats (Badolato, 2006). Such is the frame of mind by which Arab conflicts should be viewed.
The character of relations between Arab states then, is volatile. A nation’s policy is also highly dependent not on its own policies but on the personality and biases of its leaders. Consequently, international relations are as much volatile, shifting from highly hostile, moderate, to accommodating.
Although much has been seen and said about the several conflicts which has surfaced and resurfaced among middle east affairs, it should not be ignored though that the intermittent meetings among leaders of each state has somehow played a key role of lessening the number of disagreements that could develop into graver and serious results.
Existing conflicts though could not always avoid external interference and the League’s Council should maintain a flexible perspective and relations to the rest of the world. Example of which involved the Iraq-Kuwait conflict, where solutions were achieved which involved working outside the League’s framework to restore stability in the region. International interference, especially by US or Britain, among local disputes still evokes conflicting sentiments. The United Nations though has displayed a more rapid response in accomplishing the same objective in upholding the region’s general welfare.
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Cite this Historical Essay – Arab League
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