The Arab League will issue a resolution sometime today or tomorrow supporting efforts to confront Islamic State.
They may even include language that supports the U.S. air campaign against ISIS in Iraq, although any show of support for the U.S. would be politically troublesome for some Arab countries.
The resolution is not expected to go into detail about what exactly the league would be willing to do to support efforts to defeat Islamic State, but there’s a chance that the resolution will include a hint of some kind of joint military action by the league against ISIS
Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo are set to issue a resolution on Sunday backing Iraqi and U.S. efforts to confront Islamic State insurgents who have overrun large areas of Iraq and Syria and declared a cross-border caliphate, diplomats said.
Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi told the opening session that the rise of the group in Iraq challenged not merely the authority of the state but “its very existence and the existence of other states”, and called for a clear and decisive resolution to confront terrorism militarily, politically, economically and culturally.
Several foreign ministers spoke of the gravity of the challenge posed by Islamic State in Iraq as well as the violence that has engulfed Libya and other regions.
An Iraqi diplomatic source said Baghdad had drafted a resolution that would endorse its efforts to confront the militants and condemn Islamic State’s actions as war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Other diplomatic sources said the Arab League would agree a resolution endorsing the U.S. aerial campaign against the group. Egypt’s official Mena news agency quoted a source saying the ministers would agree to coordinate with the United States.
It was not immediately clear if Washington would be named in the final text as the foreign ministers hammered out the details into Sunday evening.
However, the Iraqi draft does endorse a U.N. Security Council resolution passed last month that urges member states to “act to suppress the flow of foreign fighters, financing and other support to Islamist extremist groups in Iraq and Syria”.
Diplomatic sources said backing for Iraqi efforts and the U.N. resolution could be read as offering tacit support for U.S. action, even if the United States is not named in the final text.
Arabi suggested that military action could take place under the umbrella of an Arab League joint defense pact.
Most Arab states have taken steps to prevent their young men from going to Syria to join ISIS, although according to one source, there are 12,000 foreign fighters who have joined the rebellion against Bashar Assad, most of them from Arab League countries and many of them now swelling the ranks of jihadists fighting for Islamic State.
And the resolution represents something of a flip flop for Gulf states like Qatar and Saudi Arabia who originally financed and armed ISIS. Money still flows from those countries into ISIS coffers despite both governments now disavowing any support for the terrorists.
So, now the Saudis and Qatar are going to go to war against their creation? Such is the topsy-turvey world of Arab politics.
Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to visit the Middle East next week to see how much Arab rubber meets the road. Will they back up their tough words with tangible support? Egypt would almost certainly agree to go to war against ISIS. They have the largest army and the military government’s stated position against extremists as well as their recent actions in Libya to combat jihadists would suggest their willingness to commit troops.
As for the others, there isn’t much to write home about as far as military prowess. The Saudis and UAE have modern equipment courtesy of the U.S., but the fighting skills of their armies have rarely been tested. How would they measure up against the battle-hardened veterans of ISIS?
They are probably going to need a lot of help from America to be successful.