The Arab Awakening rewrites sovereignty

By Rami G. Khouri
The Daily Star, Lebanon

Doha, Qatar, where I am early this week, does not seem to be the new political vanguard and locomotive of the Arab world of which many international press reports speak. This view of the emirate comes on the heels of the prominent role played by Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani in the Arab League’s decision last weekend to suspend Syria and pressure its regime to stop using military force against civilian protesters.

The idea that Qatar is making its move now to assert a leadership role in the Arab world strikes me as exaggerated. The real story at hand is about the revival of Arab sovereignty. This has been expressed obliquely through the slow steps the Arab League is taking to pull back from the brink of irrelevance and play a meaningful political role that responds to the sentiments and values of the Arab people, whose sovereign will should and can shape state policies.

The Arab League has long been a cross between the forces of fiction and futility, a largely meaningless organization that has enjoyed no respect in the Arab arena it is supposed to represent. The reason for this is that the league is, as its official name indicates, a “League of Arab States.” Arab statehood for its part has been simultaneously one of the great frailties and cruelties of the modern world – for the most part offering citizens less than the minimal standards that a successful state is supposed to provide: security, identity, representation, equal opportunity, rights or quality services. A league of dysfunctional states is a monument to immobility and irrelevance, which the Arab League has been for many decades.

This is why it has been so surprising to see the Arab League make uncharacteristically decisive decisions this year on Libya and Syria, offering solace and protection to citizens challenging the authoritarian rule of their long-serving regimes. The decision on Libya was half-hearted and without unanimity, and was soft-pedaled immediately afterward by Amr Moussa, the then-secretary general.

The decision on Syria this weekend was strikingly different, with 18 of 22 Arab states voting for the Syrian suspension, and the Arab League also taking initiatives that are truly historic: speaking with a delegation from the Syrian opposition and planning on calling on Arab organizations to provide assistance and protection to dissident Syrians – with the option of asking the United Nations and international bodies for further assistance if needed. If you look far enough ahead in the distance, you can see the outlines of indictments at the International Criminal Court rearing their head.

Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::

Note by the editor: Yes, in the past the Arab League as well as the Organization of Islamic States were largely inefficient. We appreciate that they are now trying to assert themselves a bit better, however, they have a long way to go still.

Categories: Africa, Asia, Egypt, Lebanon, Libya

Leave a Reply