After two years of rejection and skepticism, the Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa surprised us all and visited Baghdad.
It must be said, Moussa is somewhat of a political magician as was obvious throughout the press conferences he held with various opposing parties. He was welcomed by Ayatollah al Sistani, Sheikh al Darri, the Kurds and members of the Iraqi government and only ignored by al Zarqawi and remnants of the Baath regime.
“What will you do if Saddam Hussein’ regime is toppled when the war starts?” I asked the Secretary General a month before the invasion of Iraq. He smiled and answered, “We will see later.” Later has come and gone and the Arab League has not acted. Instead, it sufficed itself with observing the developments in Iraq from a distance. Every time it attempts to intervene, it becomes entangled with one of the warring parties.
Even though the pan Arab organization appears irrational, in reality it is acting as cunningly as its member states. On the one hand, it has endorsed the elections but continues to overlook the terrorist attacks and has not mentioned the issue. By abstaining from becoming involved with the new Iraqi government, it has gained popularity in some Arab quarters and gained precious time awaiting developments in Iraq. Despite realizing that politics in Iraq have been conferred additional legitimacy by the Security Council, Amr Moussa and his team opted to placate the Arab world and not the Iraqi majority or international authority.
Undoubtedly, the Arab League was wise not to implicate itself with one party against another, but it has mistakenly dragged its feet and refused to deal with Baghdad, a capital under the world’s spotlight where everyone is hoping for a piece of the cake.
At last, Moussa’s visit calmed the Sunni opposition, reassured angry Shiaa members of the government and fostered a valuable climate of national reconciliation.
The Iraqi crisis should have reconfigured the League’s regional role and placed it at the forefront of important regional actors if it had dared to help and offer its services to the people of Iraq. By staying away, under the excuse that it did not wish to condone the occupation, the Arab League missed the chance to reconcile conflicting parties.
Even those denouncing the organization’s position of Iraqis had hoped it might mediate since it did not support the invasion and did not discount the people’s right for self-determination.
In his last visit, Moussa perpetuated the commonly held opinion that he is a politician with a charming character, able to play various contradictory roles and succeed in all. If he were to repeat his visit to Baghdad, he might achieve more than the League countless meetings, which only produce statements.