Arab League in need of bite | Editorial

The Arab League is threatening to give the United Nations a run for its money to be crowned the most toothless of organisations. The former is charged with ensuring the closest possible ties among member states as well as safeguarding each one’s individual sovereignty. Yet as the 29th summit convened at the weekend, several dark shadows loomed large.
That the powwow was not held in Riyadh but in Dammam, in the east, was significant. After all, this is the part of the Saudi Kingdom that lies furthest from member state Yemen; in other words, out of the range of the Houthis and the missiles that the Saudis claim come from Iran.
On top of the agenda was Trump Town’s Jerusalem Shuffle. King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud reiterated the Arab position that found disfavour with the American move to relocate it embassy to the disputed city. Indeed, he pledged to splash some much-needed cash towards the Palestinians: $200 million in aid; $150 million to preserve Islamic sites in the city; and $50 million for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees in Gaza. Though it is hard to see this as anything more than a payoff of sorts following is son’s controversial comments just days earlier in which he said that Israel had the right to its own state.
But two issues were conspicuous by their absence. The first was the Saudi-led blockade against Qatar, which is about to pass the one-year mark. Considering that the premise of the boycott were allegations that Doha supported terrorism in the region — it more than surprising that this was not raised at the Arab League. Yet even more absurd is Syria and the question of chemical weapons were off the table. Particularly given that the meeting took place just a day after coordinated air strikes by France, Britain and the US.
This might be explained by the highly transactional nature of the Saudi-US relationship. After all, when Riyadh expressed concern over Washington’s decision to pull its troops out of Syria sooner rather than later, President Trump issued an ultimatum: if the Saudis wanted a prolonged American troop presence they would have to cough up. In other words, behind-the-scenes wheeling and dealing may or may not be taking place towards this end.
Be that as it may, the future of the Arab world does not look entirely positive. Not when regional and world leaders seem to think that peace can be bought. Or that legitimate resistance has a price. The only way forward for the Middle East has to be holding all those to account whom have broken international law in the name of vested interests.
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