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Majid Rafizadeh

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Syria and Iran's Nuclear Program: Rethinking the Arab League and the GCC

Posted: 02/29/2012 4:21 pm

Both the Arab League and Gulf Cooperation Council were established with the purpose of strengthening relations between Arab states, to safeguard their sovereignty, and to address general concerns about the affairs and interests of Arab member nations. Recently, these two organizations have become key international actors that may be able to act as platforms on which to pave the way for tremendous political change. Recent Arab League measures have caused Iranian leaders to question if the Arab League will push for international measures against the Iranian regime and its nuclear program.

Government documents provided by Wikileaks have revealed the existence of deeply profound regional concerns about Iran's nuclear program. Newly released IAEA reports have also confirmed these fears. Do Iranian leaders have reason to fear Arab League actions?

The Arab Leagues' primary role is to coordinate the political, cultural, economic, and social programs of its members, as well as to mediate disputes between them. Recently, the League has used the United Nations to push resolutions that have the potential to significantly impact the new world order. In case of Libya, the European Union included the Arab League in every meeting that it held. After the foreign ministers and authorities of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) announced that Gaddafi regime can no longer retain power and had lost his credibility and legitimacy, the Arab League asked the UN Security Council to impose no-fly zone in order to protect the lives of the civilians and Libyan people. Moreover, They officially recognized the Libyan National Transitional Council as a legitimate institution. Hence, after a short period of time the UN passed Resolution that allowed the NATO to impose the no-fly zone in Libya. It has been argued that if the Arab League did not push for regime change in Bengazi, the European Union would not have been able to gain UN legitimacy in order to impose a no-fly zone in Libya; hence, the overthrow of Gaddafi's regime was very unlikely in the case that the Arab League did not push for it.

Although, the Arab League did not play as significant a role in the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak as it did in Ghadafi's downfall, the League's strong condemnation of the Mubarak crackdown served as a boost of morale for the protesters and opposition groups in the streets. In case of Syria, the Arab League presented a plan to Assad in early November 2011, proposing that the Syrian government accept a halt to the violence and convene talks with the opposition. Nonetheless, Assad's regime launched a bloody assault on Syrian citizens only a day later. At least thousands of people have been killed since Syria agreed to the League-sponsored peace initiative. The next step taken by the Arab League was deciding to suspend Syria's membership in the Arab League. This was arguably a strong blow to the Syrian government, considering that Syria has long been viewed as the pulsating heart of Arab unity and nationalism, as well as a central figure in Arab politics. The Arab League has also been pushed to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for committing crimes against humanity in its ferocious campaign to crush the uprisings threatening to bring an end the regime.

However, The Arab League has acted as a platform for the change of the political landscape of some of its member states. Will the Arab League utilize the political leverage it has recently gained with the international community to take effective action against the Islamic Republic of Iran? Will it vote unanimously to take robust actions against Iran's nuclear program if it is proven that Iran is on the verge of obtaining nuclear weapons? The secret leaks and cables also reveal that the Arab allies have expressed their concerns to the United States about the Iranian Nuclear Program and urge Arab nations to help contain the perceived threat of Islamic Republic of Iran. Arguably, many Arab countries have long expressed their anxiety about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. Their anxiety is also said to be rooted in the historically tense Persian-Arab relationship. They would also argue that the very creation of the GCC in 1981 (by Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) was an attempt by Arab nations to balance the power of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the Persian Gulf.

This article was first published in Mardomak.

 

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