The Arab League is a regional organization born in Cairo on March 22, 1945. Dedicated to the affirmation of the unity of the Arab nation, its aim is to strengthen the links between the member states, to coordinate their policies and to promote their common interests. Made up of seven founding members: Egypt, Iraq (then both kingdoms), Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Transjordan (now Jordan) and Yemen (northern) the League will play a definite role in the crisis which will culminate in the first Israeli-Arab war. It nonetheless remains a divided structure well in the image of the Arab-Muslim group that it represents.
The origins of the Arab League
The idea of forming a league between Arab countries dates back to 1943 and originated with the Egyptian government at the time. Egypt and some other Arab countries wanted to establish closer cooperation among themselves, which, however, does not prejudice the sovereignty of each state as in a total union. The League's founding charter provided for the creation of a regional organization of independent states which was neither a union nor a federation. Among its goals were the commitment to the attainment of independence of all Arab peoples under foreign domination and the fight against any attempt to create a national home for the Jewish minority in Palestine (then under mandate). The members of the League were expected to form a common defense council, an economic council and a permanent military command.
Foundation and organization of the Arab League
The Arab League was founded in Cairo (Egypt) on March 22, 1945 by Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Transjordan (which became Jordan in 1950) and Yemen-du- North. Other countries subsequently joined: Libya (1953), Sudan (1956), Morocco and Tunisia (1958), Kuwait (1961), Algeria (1962), South Yemen (1967), Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (1971), Mauritania (1973), Somalia (1974), Djibouti (1977) and the Comoros (1993). The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was admitted as a full member in 1976. Since 2011, Syria has been suspended from the Arab League due to the civil war.
The supreme body of the League is a council formed by the member states, each of which has one vote. All member states are bound by unanimous council decisions. Decisions voted by a simple majority are applicable only by the States which have accepted them. The board meets twice a year, in March and September. It can be convened at the express request of two Member States, if necessary. The general secretary, elected by a two-thirds majority, manages the administrative and financial offices which constitute the general secretariat, divided into fourteen sections relating to various political, social and legal questions. Specialized agencies affiliated with the League include the Arab League Organization for Education, Science and Culture, and the Arab League Organization for Labor.
The Arab League focuses its political, economic, cultural and social programs on promoting the interests of member states. The organization serves as a forum for its members to coordinate their policies, deliberate on matters of common interest, and limit and resolve conflicts.
A divided Arab-Muslim world
In fact, within the Arab League, we find opposition between republicans and royalists, but also deep state disagreements, such as the conflictual relationship between Syria and Lebanon or Algeria and Morocco. On the other hand, with the overthrow of the Egyptian (1953) and Iraqi (1958) monarchies by nationalist and modernist movements (of "socialist" inspiration) a deep ideological divergence will further weaken this very disparate League.
The Sixties will be those of a silent rivalry between a Nasserite camp (and pro-Soviet) with a camp Pro Westerner with at its head the very conservative Saudi Arabia. This rivalry, a way of civil war internal to the Arab nation, will find expression in particular during the civil war in North Yemen, opposing pro-government forces supported by Egypt and Badrist rebels supported by Saudi Arabia.
Despite its constant expansion, since it now includes 22 member states, the Arab League is struggling to establish itself as a major player on the international scene. It has thus hardly had any influence on the various attempts to settle the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in which it has nevertheless been a party since 1948. More than 60 years after its creation, we can only note its failure to to assert the unity of an Arab nation that is still largely chimerical.
- Atlas of the Arab countries: Un monde en effervescence, by Mathieu Guidère. Otherwise, 2015.
- Geopolitics of the Arab World, by Georges Mutin. Ellipses, 2012.