The tense and distressed Arab region is always the global region that is most in need of peacekeeping forces, indeed the first peacekeeping force in the modern era was formed for this region. This was in 1948, and this peacekeeping force was given the task of monitoring the Arab – Israeli truce, and was called the “United Nations Truce Supervision Organization” [UNTSO]. Following this, the international community sent similar forces with a similar task to the Arab region at the end of the Suez Canal war of 1956; in the year immediately after i.e. 1957. Since then, the presence of international peacekeeping forces in the region has been a familiar phenomenon. We can say that the Middle East is in urgent need for such forces, for the problems and crises of the region have accounted for more than 80 percent of the human and financial resources of international peacekeeping forces since their inception.
On the regional and international level, such forces have been used to keep the peace throughout the region and world. This idea was then transferred to Europe where it was approved in principle by the European Union [EU] in its mini-summit of 2003. Meanwhile, African countries adopted the idea of creating emergency [peacekeeping] forces under the auspices of the African Union [AU] in 2001; and this was approved by African ministers of defense in Addis Ababa in 2004.
There have been a number of experiences when peacekeeping forces affiliated to the Arab League were established, but with limited objectives, such as the peacekeeping force that separated the Iraqi and Kuwaiti forces in 1961, or the Arab Deterrent Force [ADF] in Lebanon in 1976. These were forces that had specific tasks to carry out in response to temporary circumstances; however these modest attempts were not developed into a principle [of peacekeeping] that could be adopted on a regional level.
Over the past decades, there have been numerous complications in regional conditions, which have increased the need to reconsider the dismissive position towards the idea of establishing a peacekeeping force in the Arab world. What the Arab arena is witnessing with regards to a declining security situation and intensification of regional differences and divisions – most of which take the form of armed conflict – is met with international coolness, or indeed in many cases complete indifference by the United Nations [UN] and the international community. What is happening in the Arab world, from killing to mass displacement to destruction is not viewed by the UN Security Council and General Assembly as if this is taking place on this world, but rather as if it were occurring on another planet, so long as the direct interests of the superpowers and veto holders are not influenced by this.
In light of the needs of the region, and the existing and expected risks and threats that it faces, we must form an Arab peacekeeping force, based on certain conditions and criteria, and under a professional leadership, with a command and control center in place. This peacekeeping force must be granted certain requisites to ensure its success, survival, neutrality and legitimacy; so that this force is a tool for the entire Arab world. It must be ungoverned by mood or emotions, rather the mission and orientation of this force must be decided according to its charter, which should be drafted before its formation, along with the selection of its headquarters. This headquarters must be chosen according to precise military criteria, so that this force is capable of maneuvering throughout the region easily and accessing wherever it must be deployed as quickly as possible.
Lessons learnt from previous experiences confirm that Arab forces – under any name – failed to achieve any decisive or satisfactory victories, even if they did achieve limited results in the missions entrusted to them. Therefore, we must build an Arab peacekeeping force according to a new and appropriate political and organizational framework, so that its units are permanent and independent, as well as non-politicized or related to any political trend. This will ensure that this force enjoys legitimacy along the lines of the international peacekeeping forces, whilst also preserving its regionalism in a suitable operational manner, particularly as this will be a peacekeeping force for the region. We must also take into account several specific criteria, including organization, preparation and weaponry. This will not be a combat force, nor will it be prepared to take part in armed conflict or battles, rather its mission will be to protect security and stability, and it will be trained in restructuring and providing engineering, logistical and humanitarian services, in other words this peacekeeping force will specialize in helping and protecting the civilian population and providing them with services.
The experiences of the UN must also be utilized in configuring the structure of this peacekeeping force, in addition to developing its training programs. This force must also seek the assistance of international organizations with similar tasks and humanitarian objectives.
The structure, configuration and missions of this force must be developed via a joint-project involving elite soldiers and experts in related fields, under the umbrella of the General Secretariat of the Arab League, as well as the Arab states participating in this voluntary force, who would also be involved in financing its operations. Therefore, this force would be allocated a specific budget, whilst its expenses would be identified, in addition to this part of its budget would be laid aside for emergency operations and interventions.
It is also important that the permanent location for the command and control [of this Arab peacekeeping force] enjoys the approval of the Arab states contributing to the formation of this force. The choosing of a host country for this force must also take into account a number of criteria, including: a suitable geographic location that is close to the Levant and the Arab Maghreb, the political and security stability of the host country, technical specifications and standards that must be adhered to in order to ensure the readiness and professionalism of this non-combatant force, as well as the formation of a leadership and General Staff that is comprised, on all levels, including the executive, preparatory, and leadership, of members of the elite states who make up this force. In addition to this, we must take into account this force’s ability to communicate and cooperate with international forces with similar missions.
The members of this Arab peacekeeping force will also have multiple skills, in addition to physical fitness and youth; there is a need for them to speak foreign languages – in addition to Arabic – and we must also determine the years of service [for members] and provide a strategic reserve force. In this context, there can be cooperation with the Arab armies to recruit appropriate members or retired members who possess the required military and field skills, along with the adoption of the principle of continuous training to guarantee efficiency and fitness and provide the best services in the context of a modern and disciplined military, based on professional military traditions. This is in order to guarantee quick deployments and ensure that the soldiers take the initiative and adapt to the military and field conditions in different inhabited and non-inhabited regions, along with different weather conditions and often under a tense and charged atmosphere.
The Arab states success in forming this peacekeeping force will represent a cornerstone of regional peace and security in the tense Arab region. This will represent a source of protection and support for the UN in terms of instilling regional security, for this will be at the hands of the people of the region themselves, under Arab leadership and the auspices of the Arab League. This peacekeeping force will play an important humanitarian role in the region, which is something that is absent from the Arab world and Arab conflicts.