Crossroads Arabia

Arab League Summits: In Short, Useless

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Looking for signs of effectiveness of the Arab League?

Keep looking.

Retired Saudi Navy Commodore Abdulateef Al-Mulhim, in his Arab News column, looks at the 67-year history of the Arab League and is hard pressed to find anything positive to write about. Lots of rhetoric, lots of bombast, but the League has done exactly nothing to improve the lot of the Arabs it claims to represent.

About the only positive he can find is that instead of 67 annual summits, the organization has only met 23 times. That limits the damage.

Baghdad summit and the faraway dreams

If the Arab leaders held a summit conference annually after the establishment of the Arab League in 1945, then, the Baghdad Arab summit which was held on March 29, 2012, would have been number 67. But, the Baghdad summit, which was held last week is only the 23rd. The question is, what did the Arabs gain from these summits?

The first official Arab summit was held in Cairo on Jan. 13, 1964. Only politics were discussed at the summit. The discussions ranged from the diversion of the water flow of the Jordanian river, the establishment of the PLO, the set-up of unified military command headed by Egypt and many other issues. There were no discussions in the first Arab summit about education, health care, trade agreements or highway systems connecting different Arab countries. There was nothing for the simple Arab citizen.

After the 1964 summit, it was decided to have annual summit meetings to be attended by all Arab leaders. But, every single Arab summit was only held after an obstacle or a crisis facing the Arab world. The most notable summits were held in Khartoum in 1967, Baghdad in 1978 and again in Baghdad in 1990. The Khartoum summit was held after the 1967 war. And the 1978 Baghdad summit held after President Anwar Al-Sadat of Egypt went ahead with the peace agreement with Israel. As for the 1990 Baghdad summit, it took place just before the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. All the other summits were management by crisis conferences. But, do the Arab masses take the Arab summits seriously and did these conferences accomplish any unity among the Arab countries?

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