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Of What Use ... when the world is burning? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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History repeats itself, at least in our Arab League. We remember how the league dealt with the crisis of the threat of war in Iraq. The Sharm el-Sheikh summit neglected this serious issue except for one reference, which expressed support for Baghdad. The summit was also daring enough to tear up a paper presented by the Emeriti delegation suggesting a solution to save the situation by way of direct treatment. One could say that this league heals the wounds only when the patient is dead. This aging institution is known for its political deafness to every major incident. It is a means for all those present to disembarrass themselves and escape responsibility. But the art of ignoring has killed the Arab League.

We are now witnessing a serious crisis where events are happening fast and threaten an expansion of the circle of fire from Lebanon to Syria. The league has not even dedicated one exceptional summit for that issue. Why is that? Is it because they see the crisis as a storm in a cup or an internal issue? I have no doubts as well as many others that Syria is facing a real threat however not in Lebanon itself because the Syrian Lebanon is practically almost over. The danger has, or nearly has, reached Syria. A sudden opportunity is looming for the United States and is naturally speeding things up.

Syria has exposed itself to Washington’s iron fist on three levels. The first and most dangerous level is in Iraq, the second is its alliance with Iran and the third being its support for Hizbullah, Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas), Jihad and other Palestinian groups. Without Syria, frontiers with Iraq would be closed, Iran besieged and the road blocked for Hizbullah. Washington has discovered the amount of Syrian deterioration after losing some of the main Christian, Druze, and Sunni sides.

What can the Arab League do about a matter into which it cannot thrust itself? It could at least be influential towards dissolving the problem as much as possible and help Damascus realize the danger it placed, or found itself in the middle of. This is what The League should be doing instead of occupying itself with discussions about the frozen Somali crisis as we saw in the foreign ministers’ meeting which happened to follow the assassination of Hariri, and instead of disregarding the first incident which the United Nations gives priority to over other issues.

What is the value of a summit or league which hides during every crisis, quietly observing on the sideline and waiting to see how serious matters ends? The irony this time is that a promise was made by the Arab League to the Arab nations of the great achievement of an Arab parliament. However, do Arabs really want even more symbolic verbal sessions?

Now, at the burning point for yet another Arab nation, all the league does is schedule more conferences that will consist of elegant sentences expressing thanks to itself, and its representatives and for each other. The Arab League should be saying to the United Nations that it is best to leave soon, best to encourage elections in Lebanon, and safest to avoid meddling with the American lion in Iraq. If the aging league refrains from reactivating itself, and suggesting solutions in times of crisis, we will start scolding it again and calling for a change of its leaders.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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