The Arab League

By | July 2, 2021

Civil war in Lebanon

The Arab League tried early to bring peace to the civil war in Lebanon, which broke out in 1975. The following year, Syria entered Lebanon with troops to end fighting between religious and political groups and to avoid an Israeli invasion. The operation initially met with criticism within the Arab League, but eventually the Syrian line gained ground, and the Syrian soldiers in the area were transferred to a joint military force, the Arab Deterrent Force. However, an Israeli invasion could not be prevented: Israel entered Lebanon on two separate occasions, in 1978 and 1982, with the intention of crushing the Palestinian liberation movement PLO. In 1989, the Arab League appointed a new group to mediate in Lebanon. The main Lebanese fighting forces then agreed on a ceasefire, and in October, the Arab League’s peace plan was approved. A Syrian troop retreat was part of the plan, but Syria remained as a power factor in Lebanon. It was not until 2005 that Syria withdrew its troops from the country.

War on the Persian Gulf

On August 2, 1990, Kuwait was invaded by Iraq. A few days later, the Iraqi government announced that Kuwait had been formally incorporated into Iraq. Large Iraqi troops were deployed at the Iraqi-Saudi border. At the same time as Saudi Arabia was fleeing a Kuwaiti government-in-exile, its king Fahd sought UN assistance. A US-led UN force was deployed, and in 1991 it succeeded in liberating Kuwait.

The question of how the Arab states would behave in the conflict came to divide the Arab League into two camps. At an extraordinary summit on August 10, 1990, a resolution was adopted condemning Iraq’s attack and further advocating the deployment of Arab forces to help Saudi Arabia and “other states” defend Kuwait. The resolution was passed by a majority decision (12 of 21). Iraq, Libya and the PLO voted against the proposal, while Jordan, Sudan and Mauritania made reservations. Tunisia did not attend the meeting.

From a historical perspective, the reactions of the Arab states during the Kuwait crisis appear as a first sign of a new order. That a defense alliance with the United States as a participant and dominant power would receive support from Arab states was a violation of an unwritten rule. The United States had always been seen as Israel’s friend and thus the enemy of the Arab League.

The split continued even after the war when Iraq was subject to UN sanctions as a result of the country not complying with UN resolutions. The Arab League demanded that Iraq cooperate with UN weapons inspectors. Iraq regularly criticized the General Secretary of the Arab League and even threatened to leave the organization in protest of its positions. Iraq’s position within the Arab League gradually weakened during the 1990’s. Towards the end of the decade, Egypt and Saudi Arabia emerged as the only really strong players.

Conflict with Israel

The conflict with Israel has been a common thread through the organization’s activities. When the United Kingdom relinquished control of the Palestinian Territory in 1947, the Arab states considered that the territory would go to the predominantly Arab population (Palestinians) who lived there. They did not accept the UN proposal that the area be divided into a Jewish and a Palestinian state. When the state of Israel was proclaimed in 1948, the Arab states and the Palestinians declared war on the Israelis. Israel won and controlled more land after the war than the partition plan indicated.

During the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel also conquered Jerusalem, with Islam’s third holiest site, the al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights. In 1980, the Israeli parliament declared Jerusalem the capital of the country. Another war was fought in October 1973 after a surprise attack on Israel by Syria and Egypt. This time, too, the Arab states failed to defeat Israel. The wars forced many Palestinians to flee, and today millions of Palestinian refugees live in camps around the Arab world.

Abbreviated as AL according to Abbreviationfinder, The Arab League demonstrated externally in the Israeli question was broken when Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979. Egypt was excluded from all Arab cooperation bodies and its isolation lasted until well into the 1980’s.

Cooperation with other actors

The Arab League has had an observer position in the UN for more than five decades. At first, the Arab countries saw the UN, where the resolution on the division of Palestine was added, as a body governed by the United States. However, relations changed over the years in connection with the UN helping Palestinian refugees, primarily through the Palestinian Refugee Aid Organization, UNRWA, and the UNHCR.

For a long time, the Arab League had a special position within the UN, not only as a regional organization but as a representative of the entire Arab nation. In connection with the division and change within the Arab League in recent years, the relationship with the UN has also changed, and the Arab League is now seen less than before as a representative of the entire Arab world.

Relations with other organizations in the region have sometimes been irritated, partly due to competition for financial resources and areas of work.

The increased cooperation between the EU and the states around the Mediterranean has led to the Arab League demanding that all its Member States be included in the cooperation. However, the EU has rejected that idea.

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