The Arab League’s highest priority is the safety of its members, which in essence is the safety of the families that rule the member countries. Every drop of oil and every cubic foot of gas is harnessed towards that singular obsession. Even when one of its members is a Genocidal maniac, like Omar al-Bachir of Sudan, the Arab League will go out of its way to protect its members at the expense of its own people.
During the height of the Arab Spring, six of the twenty-two member countries were about to break away from the traditional status quo of the Arab League’s dominant constitution. These were Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, and Syria. Of those, only Tunisia, and to a certain degree Libya, have succeeded. Egypt is back to its old Mubarak ways with extremist actors in control, the Yemen uprising has been stifled and so has the Bahraini one.
Syria remains in limbo but the Arab League has resisted the inevitable regime change for almost one year at the expense of its own political credit. Knowing the futility of its action, the Arab League, at this instant, is working very hard on not changing the system by welcoming a new family within its exclusive club.
Those who have been stifled were in danger of becoming proxy tools to the extremist religious elements in the region like al-Qaeda and the Iranian Mullahs. In suffocating the revolutions in those countries, it served simultaneously the interests of the Arab League because it was imperative to keep their club membership strong and the interests of the west to eradicate extremism.
Countries, like Lebanon and to a lesser degree Iraq, are a thorn in the Arab League backs. Their democracies are contagious and if there is one enemy the Arab League considers lethal, it is power of the voting booth. This is the reason why countries, like Saudi Arabia, work extra hard to steer Lebanon and why organizations like Hezbollah are a double threat. This is also the same reason why the Arab League fears Iraq because its threatened politicians create leverage for Iran inside the Arab League other members cannot control.
But within this stew from hell, there are member countries who will break away from the Arab League if given the chance and transition into either full parliamentarian democracies or constitutional monarchies. The heavy-handed approach by countries like Saudi Arabia prevents members like Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, UAE, and possibly Oman from choosing their own paths. If the Arab League is willing to protect a mass murderer to keep a tight knot, then one can imagine the control it exercises over all the members to remain loyal.
This is where the UN and nations around the world fail the region by either not capitalizing on the inner tensions and possibilities for a better future or by maintaining the status quo because of commercial and political interests. This is why the Arab Spring first round started with a bang but ended with a sputter.
The Arab League is an old dinosaur that cannot possibly survive within the context of a Facebook freedom at home and tyranny on the street. We are witnessing those tensions today in Syria because the revolution there has exposed the Arab League true intentions. Even though the Arab street remains in denial over this naked truth, it won’t be long before it transitions to anger; one that is not based on the same reasons we witnessed in Tunisia dealing with individual freedoms and economic parity but on one with a more collective approach dealing with universal human rights.
That’s the real earthquake in the post tremors we called the Arab Spring. If this phenomena was the one-off factory workers walking out on management, the next one will be a well planned unionized strike.
That is why many of us fight extremism. We see the tidal wave coming and our job is to make sure it does not leave any sharks behind it.