Arab Nations to Form Joint Military Force

Saudi Arabia, Egypt will likely be at the helm
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 29, 2015 11:13 AM CDT
Arab Nations to Form Joint Military Force
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, right, greets Jordan's King Abdullah II on his arrival to attend an Arab summit, in Sharm el-Sheikh, South Sinai, Egypt, Saturday, March 28, 2015.   (Uncredited)

Arab League member nations formally announced an agreement today to form a joint military force. While details of how such a force would actually operate remain thin, the agreement is a telling sign of a new determination among Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and their allies to intervene aggressively in regional hotspots, whether against Islamic militants or Iran-backed groups. What's known so far:

  • What the force might look like: Egyptian military and security officials have said the proposed force would be made of up to 40,000 elite troops and will be headquartered in either Cairo or Riyadh, the Saudi capital. The force would be backed by jet-fighters, warships, and light armor. It's unlikely all 22 Arab League nations will be represented, as there are early indications that joining the force will be optional.

  • Who will lead it: Saudi Arabia, as the region's economic powerhouse, will likely take a leadership role. Egypt, which boasts the Arab world's largest standing army but is heavily dependent on financial aid from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf nations, will also be a major player.
  • The relevant history: Creation of such a force has been a longtime goal that has eluded Arab nations in the 65 years since they signed a rarely used joint defense pact. Gulf nations, under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council, joined forces to help Bahrain's Sunni monarchy quash Arab Spring protests in 2011 by its Shiite majority.
  • Regarding Yemen: All indications from participants in the just-concluded Arab League summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh are that the force could take months to truly come together. That is most likely too long for it to play a meaningful role in the current Yemeni crisis. However the current ad hoc Saudi-led coalition that is conducting airstrikes against Shiite rebels in Yemen could serve as a template for what the force will eventually become.
(Read more Arab League stories.)

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