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The Role of the Arab League in the Crisis in Iraq

The settlement of a long and multidimensional conflict situation in the Middle East is a difficult process in which both regional and extra regional states take part with different degree of activity. The noticeable role in this process is also played by the member states of the Arab League. They are interested in its advance and achievement of the regional and world stability due to the fact that their own safety is closely connected with that of the Arab League in the world economy. The suppliers of hydro carbonic raw materials and large capital investors make them especially vulnerable in front of the threat of the violation of a regional stability. The aggravation of the situation in the Middle East has a negative impact on their economic development, promoting destabilization of the oil and gas market, and also the market of the capitals and decrease in business activity in these countries. The given research paper will discuss the role of the Arab League countries in the crisis in Iraq. Special attention will be paid to the identification of the internal reasons of the crisis in Iraq in political, economic, ethno-confessional areas, the motives of the Arab League members, the extent of influence of external factors on the development of a conflict situation in the zone of the Persian Gulf, and response of the Arab League to these processes.


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Iraq is a serious factor of proneness to the conflict in the Middle East. The development of the situation around Iraq with all evidence showed that the Iraqi crisis was not the ordinary regional military conflict, but the crisis of the world scale. It is the crisis of the world order, the UN and other international institutes, the international security, the unions, the coalitions and the international law. Currently, Iraq is not only one of the most unstable countries in the Middle East region, where the escalation of violence projects on the regional instability and undermines its safety (Thakur & Sidhu, 2006).

Scientific relevance and practical importance of studying the problem is also caused by the large extent of the influence of the Iraqi crisis on the complicated system of the political relations in the zone of the Persian Gulf and the Middle East in general. The Middle East region was and continues to be the intersection of the important political and economic processes and tendencies. There is incessant political turbulence in the Middle East.

The situation in the majority of the regional states is characterized by political instability caused by internal and external reasons. Among them there is instability of the political systems, serious problems in the economic sphere, increase of internal intensity, social disintegration, interethnic and confessional contradictions, and also existence of the local and regional conflicts. The position of the Arab League members concerning the Iraqi crisis is ambiguous (Deeb, 2003).

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At the beginning of military operation against Iraq the leaders of the Arab states faced a difficult choice: on the one hand, the requirements of the population to help the “brotherly Iraq” and to protect the ideas of the unity of the Arab world; on the other hand, the pressure of the USA, relying on the support in military operation and/or granting the Arab territories for the dislocation of the American-British troops. The events around Iraq had a special value for the Arab countries: they became a kind of an “indicator” for the international community - whether the world will play by the US rules or adhere to the norms of the international law. There were two most undesirable consequences. Firstly, it is the overthrow of a political regime, undesirable to Washington, and, secondly, the violation of the international legal norms and change of the balance of the UN - the USA forces towards the former against the unresolved Arab-Israeli conflict (Kang, Patlolla, & Sakha, 2014).

There are the parallels between a military action of the USA in Iraq and the Arab-Israeli opposition - the Middle Eastern policy of George Bush and the Palestinian policy of Ariel Sharon. The events, occurring in these two hot zones of the Arab world, are perceived in a uniform context and estimated as follows: the US goal is to make Iraq an example of the establishment of their control in the region. However, this goal hides the expansionist strategy of Israel: the tasks of the sides in the region coincide.

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In the situation of very essential pressure of the Arab countries population upon authorities, the increasing anti-Americanism and admiration for Saddam Hussein as an embodiment of the defender of the Palestinians, and heroism of the opposition with the USA, the Arab leaders hurried to separate from Iraq and transferred responsibility for the beginning of the conflict not to the diplomatic failures, but to Baghdad in connection with its refusal to recognize the requirements of the UN. The war with Iran, invasion of Kuwait, and the current crisis with the mass destruction weapons compose a number of mistakes which cannot be corrected today. The Iraqi management is obliged to use the opportunity to recover from the crisis, to which it led the country and the whole Arab world. The states of the Arab League had a common opinion on the awareness of the need of peaceful resolution of the Iraqi conflict. Both certain Arab leaders and the League of Arab States repeatedly called for it, demanding to recognize the resolutions of the UN that would satisfy the Arabs’ need for the balance between the West and public opinion of the countries about Saddam Hussein (Kang, Patlolla, & Sakha, 2014).

The distribution of radical Islamism that created the threat not only for the ruling modes, but also for political stability of the region is one of the most probable results of the Iraqi occupation. Therefore, even the governments loyal to Washington, immediately separated from the USA, trying to weaken the criticism of the opposition. However, the Arab countries did not manage to develop a uniform position in relation to the Iraqi crisis because of the distinction of their current interests. However, “the League stressed its commitment to respecting Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, political stability, national unity and rejecting any interference in its internal affairs” (MEMO, 2014).

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The negative position of Damascus concerning the war in Iraq was quite predictable owing to the several factors. The Syrian-Iraqi relations, which were quite strained until 1991 because of the split between the Syrian and Iraqi regimes, started improving considerably from the moment Bashar al-Assad, known for personal friendship with Kusey Hussein, the son of Saddam Hussein, came to power. It also gave a reason to suspect that Syria was involved in the concealment of the family members of the Iraqi leader (Pinafari, 2009).

First of all, such rapprochement was explained by the economic factor. Syria daily received about 200 thousand barrels of oil via gas pipe line. The Kurdish question is another reason for the rapprochement between Damascus and Baghdad, and, therefore, and resistance to the Iraqi war. In Syria, there is a large Kurdish ethnic minority, and the prospect of war in Iraq caused there, as well as in Iran with Turkey, fears that, in case of Saddam Hussein’s overthrow, Iraq will be divided into several parts including the emergence of the independent Kurdistan. The so-called syndrome of Iraq definitely has the effect of a continuous “control” of Syria. Understanding the situation, Bashar al-Assad, having weighed all “pros and cons”, takes the pragmatic position considering the number of problems in the relations of Damascus with Washington (Pinafari, 2009).

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The certain steps towards Washington and its operations in Iraq were made by Syria; it did not start an open confrontation with the USA and did not aggravate the situation in the region. It is proved by the terminations of the attacks of the Israeli territory from the side of “Hezbollah” during direct military operations in Iraq. Thus, the pressure upon the leaders giving support to the Palestinians was the main goal of the current military operation.

This model of the Middle Eastern policy of the USA assumes weakening of the position of Syria in the region. Washington and Tel Aviv believe that if Syria and Iran cease to support “Hezbollah”, HAMAS and “Islamic Jihad”, these radical movements will not be able to interfere with the restoration of peace between the Palestinians and Israeli. However, after falling of Baghdad Syria would like to take the place of Iraq as a defender of the traditional Arab interests, including the interests of Palestine, and thus, increase the level of the regional influence. Unlike Iraq, Syria has “special” interest in the support of the Palestinians, seeking for return of the Golan Heights. The help from the USA in the solution of this question is doubtful even if Syria participates in the actions of the coalition. Syria defends the all-Arab position to prevent the automatic expansion of war and application of military means against Iraq and the whole region. It confirms the intention of Syria to become the defender of the all-Arab interests, without open opposition with Washington as it has serious fears to become the following target of the Middle Eastern policy of the USA (Cordesman & Khazi, 2012).

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Saudi Arabia

Among the reasons of the sharp deterioration of the relations between the USA and Saudi Arabia there are the rough objections of the former against the current Iraqi war. Saudi Arabia played a role of the key regional partner of Washington, having provided the USA with military bases and having assumed the part of the military expenses. The convictions of Americans that the Saudi authoritarian regime is a source of the international terrorism strengthened the fact that 15 out of 19 plane terrorists, who made terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 in the USA, were the natives of Saudi Arabia (Pinafari, 2009).

The sharp condemnation of the Iraqi policy by Riyadh is connected with the oil factor. The authorities of Saudi Arabia are afraid that the USA intends to destroy OPEC by means of the Iraqis. Considering that Iraq possesses the second-large oil stocks in the world (11%) and is capable to deliver almost the same amount of oil as Saudi Arabia, the possibility of similar turn of events disturbs the former too much. However, the Iraqi oil is only a tactical problem of the military operation of the USA against Iraq. In particular, a new Iraq can refuse the restrictions on the production set by the oil cartel and leave OPEC and make this organization inefficient at oil prices control, and, therefore, weaken the dominating role of Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf (Cordesman & Khazi, 2012).

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The second possible option was the fact that even if Iraq remained in OPEC, the matter in cartel all the same would reach disagreements as Iraq after decades of war and isolation has to restore its economy and infrastructure with the means it can receive opening the oil crane. The inflow of the Iraqi oil to the world market in the long term will force the global manufacturers to increase the outputs, to reject the policy of oil production control for the purpose of the prices deduction within the established corridor. The consequences of the uncontrollable actions of a new Iraq will strike, first of all, the budget of Saudi Arabia. Moreover, the decrease in the role of OPEC, due to the leadership from which Riyadh receives political dividends, is very undesirable for Saudi Arabia. In view of these circumstances, Saudi Arabia took a compromise position: Riyadh did not go for the open opposition between Washington and Iraq. However, the regional staff of the Central command of the USA officially changed its air base from Saudi Arabia for Qatar. Obviously, the authorities of Saudi Arabia realize that the threat of distribution of anti-American moods in case of the support for the American military operation by Riyadh, is much more dangerous for the country’s stability than some disagreements with Washington on this issue (Deeb, 2003).


The political steps of Egypt concerning the Iraqi crisis, in particular its attempt to solve the problem by diplomatic methods failed. Actually, Cairo recognized its inability to affect the current situation. However, trying to justify its position, Egypt emphasized that the fault for the initiation of war lied on Saddam Hussein because of his refusal to cooperate with the UN properly. Cairo considered that Iraq “nullifies” all diplomatic steps of the Arab leaders, seeking to solve the problem peacefully, undermining their political authority on the international scene by such actions. While the American military structures prepare for military operation more and more, Baghdad continues to show false heroism and self-confidence. The Iraqi regime neglects all attempts of the Arab countries, first of all Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Syria, to solve the problem by diplomatic methods.

The current situation in Egypt had the following motives explaining why Cairo opposed military operations in Iraq. From the point of view of economic interests, Egypt, first of all, is concerned about the fact that Iraq can become the main exporter of natural gas, and will compete in the traditional Egyptian markets, such as Jordan, Syria and Turkey. From the point of view of political interests, H. Mubarak could not allow the transformation from the existing “allied” American-Egyptian relations to the “patron-client” format. At the same time, in connection with the Iraqi crisis Egypt shows the unwillingness to endow the political influence in the region by its behavior: if America provides the annual financial aid to Egypt, Egypt provides stability concerning the West and the American policy in the region. Egyptian influence in the region cannot be underestimated; Egypt does not agree with the American pressure and will not allow to interfere with its internal affairs. Such a course of Cairo aiming to separate from Washington is explained by the fact that Egypt is afraid of the activation of the Islamic movements within the country. Despite the existing ban on the activity of the organization “Muslim Brotherhood”, the leading members of this group are independent members of the national parliament, specifying that the Egyptian authorities reckon with these moods, and, therefore, oppose the war in Iraq (Cordesman & Khazi, 2012).

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Unlike 1991, when Jordan was one of some Arabic countries, supporting Iraq, at present it is against any military actions. The position of Jordan concerning the Iraqi crisis is considerably defined by the influence of the demographic factor: the bigger part of the Jordanian population has the Palestinian origin. The spread of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict across the Jordanian territory is one of its most frightening scenarios for the power structures of the Jordan Kingdom. The economy of the state considerably depends on good neighborhood with Iraq - the main trade partner and the only oil supplier by the preferential prices. However, an intensive development of the Iraq-Syrian and Iraq-Saudi relations led to the fact that Iraq attached lesser significance to its neighbor. The Jordanian authorities were disturbed by the fact that Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) would become the main port of the oil transit instead of the Jordanian port Aqaba. It can negatively influence the economy of Jordan, whose income considerably depends on the transit trade with the Iraq oil (Pinafari, 2009).

The economic impact of the Iraqi crisis in Jordan has been mixed. Jordan has benefited greatly from serving as a “gateway” to Iraq for governments, aid workers, contractors, and businesspeople; its real estate and banking sectors are booming, and it stands to reap more benefits from increased trade and transportation should the situation in Iraq improve. However, with the fall of Saddam Hussein, Jordan lost the sizable oil subsidies and customary shipments it received from Iraq. One of Jordan’s principal economic interests in the new Iraq is to secure future energy assistance. (Lasensky, 2006)

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Therefore, the actions of Jordan on the eve of the Iraq campaign reminded the game on two fronts. Thus, the king Abdullah II, who allowed to place the American Patriot missile systems, was compelled to act against anti-American demonstrations with the sharp condemnation of the USA. Therefore, using more and more difficult situation in Iraq, Jordan declared the inflexibility of its own position to the USA, and at the same time improved the relations with the Iraqi forces.

The Persian Gulf Countries

There are several permanent American military bases on the territories of the countries of the Arab League. According to the agreements with these countries, Washington has the right to use the military bases on the territories of these states in case of necessity. Thus, the fact that the Arab League states will let the USA use the territory in case of the military operation in Iraq, was clear long before the beginning of the war in Iraq. Nevertheless, the Arab League states also had the motives according to which they did not take definite steps against military operations of Washington. Iraq still remains the main threat for Kuwait.

However, the Arab League states declared that they opposed the solution to the Iraqi problem by the military methods. The matter is that their authorities feel instability of the situation. They are afraid that the military bases located on the Arabian Peninsula could be used by Washington if the intensity around Iraq grows and anti-American moods in the Arab world increase. It will become a catalyst for the activation of mass protests of the population. It can lead to the unprecedented support of the Islamists by the population. It will threaten the internal political stability of the current modes in the Persian Gulf.



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