Why today Arab world is more divided than ever

Commentary Materials 12 January 2019 14:13 (UTC +04:00)
Many times in recent history, the Arabs have tried to unite, and each time they failed.
Why today Arab world is more divided than ever

Baku, Azerbaijan, Jan. 12

By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:

Oh, the Arab world... Many times in recent history, the Arabs have tried to unite, and each time they failed.

Despite rhetoric about the readiness to defend the unity of the Arab world, in practice the country-based nationalism was always put above pan-Arab nationalism, and when it came to the choice between pan-Arab unity and state interests, the choice, in the end, fell on the latter.

In 1958, Egypt and Syria established the United Arab Republic (UAR) — perhaps the most striking historical attempt to form a single Arab state, which could turn into a core capable of attracting other Arab countries. Indeed, after the establishment of the Egyptian-Syrian state, Yemen joined it. Then Libya tried several times unsuccessfully to unite with Egypt.

Many expected that Iraq will join UAR after the 1958 revolution (coup). But this did not happen.

The Egyptian-Syrian state dissolved in 1961 as a result of actions of Syrian nationalists who believed that Egypt is turning Syria into its appendage.

In 1958, a Federal government had already been established in Iraq and Jordan — the two kingdoms headed by the Hashemite dynasty at that time — this turned out to be another unsuccessful attempt.

In 1963, there was another idea – creation of a triple Egyptian-Syrian-Iraqi United state, but the case never went beyond talks.

Also, merging of Syria and Iraq did not take place after the Baath party came to power in Baghdad and Damascus in 1963.

Another attempt to unite Syria and Iraq was made in 1979, when a meeting of a specially created Supreme political Committee held in Baghdad, took a decision to develop a single Constitution, but that was a failure as well.

At first sight it may seem incomprehensible that the EU countries, which differ in history, culture and language, managed to unite, whereas Arab countries with their common culture, religion, historical traditions and, most importantly, a common literary language, not only failed to unite, but also fail at living in harmony with each other.

The “Arab spring” failed to become a catalyst for solidarity of “al-Ummah al-Arabiya” (the entire Arab nation). On the contrary, the contradictions have only increased, both between some Arab countries and within the countries themselves against the existing authorities (Bahrain, Iraq, Sudan, etc.).

We have all witnessed a split in Arab attitude towards the civil war in Syria – on the issue of rocket attacks by the Western coalition, and the use of chemical weapons, and the fate of President Assad.

The Yemeni crisis with the military participation of some Arab countries, the cold war and closed borders between Algeria and Morocco, the conflict between Fattah and Hamas – it can be still listed.

Even within the Gulf Cooperation Council, whose member countries were born from the same womb, there are serious contradictions when one of them – Qatar – is boycotted by the rest, with diplomatic relations being severed.

In the context of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Arab solidarity also does not look monolithic – some consider the establishment of contacts with Israel necessary, while others call it betrayal. In this regard, in the minds of Arabs there is another contradiction on how Hezbollah should be considered: as a power resisting “Zionist enemy” or as an Iranian proxy acting in the interests of the Islamic Republic against the Arab states?

As for the Arab League, despite its sincere efforts to ensure the unity of the Arab world, the organization often appears to be feeble due to strong faction among its members.

Today, no one, primarily the Arabs themselves, have any willingness to unite. That time has passed – at least there are no signs of such ideas. The Arab world today is more divided than ever. There is also no leader who could encourage the Arab nation to integrate.

At some point, it seemed that the crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman could try on the role of a pan-Arab leader, but some recent events including the murder of Khashoggi, raises a big question mark on support for his ambitions.

A year and a half ago, some Arab countries were irreconcilable opponents of the Syrian regime, and today, they have suddenly turned 180 degrees.

Today, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain – countries that usually adjust their decisions with the House of Saud – have decided to restore the activities of their embassies in Damascus. It is possible that Saudi Arabia – Assad’s first enemy - itself will join them in the near future.

Perhaps the Saudis and their allies think that this is a political move that will give them additional trump cards in regional leadership.

That’s OK. Then why hasn't Turkey changed its negative attitude towards the Syrian regime, even though it may remain in power?

That's the fundamental difference. If the Arabs wish to consolidate in some way as a single organism, they should take their values more seriously and stick to their principles.