April 01, 2015

A bold new Arab vision…for 2009

By Marc Lynch

The Arab League Summit in Sharm el-Sheikh over the weekend produced a show of unity and pledges of support to the Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen. Enthusiastic commentators have declared it the dawn of a new erafor the Arab world and the launch of an enduring new doctrine of autonomous Arab collective action in the absence of American leadership. In fact, the summit felt eerily familiar. The final resolution was manifestly the statement of an Arab Thermidor Summit. Nothing in it, from the warnings about Iranian power to the counter-terrorism agenda to the ignoring of democracy and political freedoms would have felt out of place in 2009 – the last time the Saudis launched a doomed war against the Houthis in Yemen. The only thing missing was Hosni Mubarak.

This is not the first Arab summit to produce paroxysms of enthusiasm and ambitious plans for joint action, of course. The Sharm el-Sheikh summit should be seen as the latest in a long line of bids for leadership of the official Arab order, with Riyadh following a well-rehearsed script for such bids. The assembled Arab leaders reaffirmed their mutual solidarity and admiration, called for Arab unity, offered the requisite lip service to the Palestinian cause and carefully ignored areas of serious disagreement. They promised to come together around the campaign to eradicate Yemen’s Houthi movement and pledged to create a joint Arab military force, a move that has grabbed headlines. Arab summit meetings have promised many such things over the years. They are legendary for announcing grandiose initiatives that fail to materialize, and it is telling that the details of this last proposal are conspicuously unspecified.

Read the full article at The Washington Post.