By Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
13 August 2014
The deteriorating situation in the Arab world reminds us time and again of a real need for strong leadership in the region. The current harmony we are witnessing between Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Cairo may well just be the light at the end of a dark tunnel.
The continuous killing of innocents in Iraq and Gaza only proves the need for such an alliance as the region faces growing threats of extremism and terrorist groups with statehood ambitions.
All eyes were set on the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as the only crisis-free body that can protect the Arab world, but the lack of a unanimous political vision among GCC members has weakened its political standing, preventing the bloc from playing an influential role in resolving regional crises. This flaw will remain a black mark on an entity harmonious in every aspect of its mutual dealings except politics.
Indeed, this state of weakness has left the door open for regional interventions. States with strong political and military regimes, such as Iran and Turkey, have rushed to fill that gap. Turkey has succeeded in placing itself among major influential states, being the leading Sunni stronghold of the Islamic world. Iran, on the other hand, controls decision-making in Damascus and Baghdad.
External forces have, unfortunately, benefited from the stagnation of a region busy in its internal disputes. What also remains clear, however, is that Egypt would always be at the main axis of any future Arab cohesion.
Historically, Egypt represented the political, cultural depth of the Arab world and was empowered by a strong army. The Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have since endorsed the new Egyptian leadership in a key decision that has altered the future regional map.
These Gulf States are protecting Egypt and the region from circling the drain, knowing full well that a weak Egypt hinders Arab security at large.
The latest visit of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi to the Kingdom at the same time as Emirates Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, shows that harmonious relations could result in a unified stance, or better yet, a joint political program.
Many capitals await the result of this collective political liaison, deemed crucial in fighting cancerous terror cells and stopping them from attacking different parts of the Arab world. If one thing is for sure, it is that terror groups would not have had fertile ground on which to thrive had Arab regimes and governments been powerful. Clearly, the political void left in the aftermath of the so-called “Arab Spring” and decreasing American interest in the region has fanned the flames of extremism and terror.
The Kingdom is now pioneering counter-terrorism efforts by establishing an international center to fight this phenomenon. The Kingdom has always foreseen that terrorism is not a local problem between sects, but a problem of international scale that requires global efforts to defeat. Unfortunately, this call to join forces against terrorism was never picked up.
Egypt, meanwhile, is in the process of regaining its historical standing as the heart of the Arab world. As such, it is not the time to marginalize the Egyptian role in Arab issues, particularly the war on Gaza.
Egypt enjoys historical commitment to Arab issues and has made significant sacrifices defending Arabs in past wars.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah understood Egypt’s need for a strong economy to boost its political role. As such, his call for an international conference to support the Egyptian economy is an important step to revive a struggling economy.
Resources should be mobilized toward supporting Egypt, which will ensure security and political stability in the region in the long run.
The Cairo-Jeddah-Abu Dhabi union does not replace the Arab League, but creates a much needed effort to fill the gap created by the league’s absence.
Arabs are fed up with sectarian conflicts and border disputes and expect more than short-term remedies that don’t solve the crisis from the core.
Institutionalized work ensures the continuity of such unions and may just regain the trust of Arabs in collective state work, while transparency is also key to strengthening these efforts and even encouraging more members to join. In short, large-scale initiatives such as these are fervently awaited by the masses to shift the stagnant tides of the Arab world toward refreshing change and healing.