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Arab League Summit galvanizes members against Iran

In an era when the value and credibility of multinational institutions everywhere is being questioned, the 2019 Arab Summit produced a coherent message about the pressures and threats which affect its constituent states; foremost of these continues to be Iran.

Speaking for the Arab League at the summit in Tunisia on Sunday, Secretary General Ahmed Abul Ghiet called for fresh unity among Arab nations, as he declared that Iran has been the chief agent of instability and regional chaos. He said that "The interventions from our neighbors in the region - especially Iran -have complicated the crises and led to prolongation of the solution."

In outlining the nature of threat affecting Arab states, Secretary Abul Ghiet went on to articulate the situation in explicit and graphic terms when he said: "Arab national security has in recent years been exposed to the most serious challenges and the most serious threats in its contemporary history.” In his call to “unite as one force under one umbrella against the regional interventions,” he seemed to urge the need for a coherent and forceful diplomatic and defence strategy. This was perhaps a hint that the much vaunted “Arab NATO” concept should be implemented.

There can be no doubt that Iran remains the chief agent of bloodshed and disorder in the region. Even before the official opening of this week’s summit in Tunisia and Arab quartet comprising Bahrain, UAE, Saudi and Egypt spoke of Iran’s continuing policy of “stoking creed and sectarian” conflicts.

Saudi Foreign Minister Ibrahim Abdulaziz al-Assaf specifically named Iran as the chief aggressor when he said: “The most dangerous form of terrorism and extremism is Iran’s flagrant interference in our Arab affairs.” Moreover, he prefigured Secretary General Abul Ghiet’s later call for concerted action by saying: “There should be Arab cooperation to confront them.”

From all parts of the Arab world voices agree the extent of Iran’s threat. For instance, Salah al-Hadi, the Egyptian political commentator said recently that “at any crisis in the Arab world, you’ll find that Iranian hands are there. From Syria, Iraq and Yemen, Iran is present through its agents. Yemen may be the clearest example of this involvement.”

The view coming out of the Arab summit appears to be that there is a growing accord – or common view that something must be done to tackle Iran and to stop it in its tracks in its ambitions for regional hegemony. Although Iran is being ring-fenced and assailed by US sanctions, it continues to exert its power through proxy militias, gangsterism, sectarianism and spy networks. This all adds up to a mounting existential threat to many Arab states, who look at the tragedies of Iraq and Syria and feel that enough is enough.

Over the years, the Arab League has frequently been depicted as a toothless creature that utters quickly forgotten missives, which ultimately have no clout. However, such is the level of the threat from Iran and a realization that despite US sanctions, the Arab states continue to be on the front line against Iran. This has, at last galvanized the Arab League. Diplomacy has its limits and always needs to be backed up by hard power.

The comments already coming out of the 2019 Arab League summit might just be the first articulations towards the building of a new Arab military alliance that will be a strong bulwark against Iran’s ambitions. The Mullah Regime in Tehran will soon realize that the tide of history is against its medieval worldview.