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OPINION

The Arab League Steps Up

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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The Arab League is a multi-national organization made up of 22 nations ranging from Mauritania on the West coast of Africa to Qatar in the Persian Gulf.

It was reported over the weekend by the BBC that members of the Arab League "have agreed to create a joint Arab military force" on the heels of military action by Egypt and Saudi Arabia against Shiite rebels in Yemen.

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This is important here, because so many American voices have questioned why the U.S. is sending more ground forces to Iraq (and keeping forces in Afghanistan) and leading the air war with U.S. warplanes while Iraq's neighbors have largely sat on the sidelines.

The United Arab Emirates was an early participant in the air war against ISIS until a Jordanian pilot was shot down (and later executed). The UAE withdrew its forces until it was satisfied that a similar fate would not befall any of its pilots.

With the collapse of the government in Yemen and with the U.S. actually withdrawing its troops from that country, Saudi Arabia and Egypt launched air attacks against rebel positions with the suggestion that ground forces might follow.

According to some reports, the Arab League meeting in Southern Egypt included 14 of the 22 nations. It was not expected that all 22 members would participate in the coaltion.

Keep in mind, this is the equivalent of a concept car. The idea is interesting and there is a good deal of buzz, but nothing exists to put into showrooms as yet.

According to Al Jazeera

"A high-level panel would work under the supervision of Arab chiefs of staff to determine the structure and mechanism of the force.

"The [military] chiefs of staff would meet within a month and have three more months to decide on the structure, budget and mechanism of the force before they present their proposals to a meeting of the Arab League's Joint Defense Council."

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So, the first set of proposals wouldn't be set before the League earlier than July of this year. Keep in mind the Arab League has been in business since 1950 and was formed to provide a "joint defense agreement," so what's another four months.

It is very difficult for most Americans to figure out who is on which side, allied with whom, in what country. The fight against ISIS in Iraq includes Iran on the side of the U.S.-led coalition. But in Yemen, according to the Times of Israel:

Arab leaders spoke repeatedly of the threat posed to the region's Arab identity by what they called moves by "foreign" or "outside parties" to stoke sectarian, ethnic or religious rivalries in Arab states - all thinly-veiled references to Iran.

Yemen's foreign minister told reporters at the meeting that the air strikes, which began last Thursday, had "stopped Iran's supply line to the rebels."

An official of a Persian Gulf country said:

"Iran, for the first time in a very long time, is basically seeing a counterattack. The Iranians were not expecting that Gulf monarchies, like Saudi Arabia, would be so bold as to confront this head on."

New York Times reporter David Kirkpatrick wrote yesterday that one of the driving forces behind this new Arab military cooperation is in response to the U.S. and others' race to reach a deal with Iran to restrict its nuclear program in return for lifting of economic sanctions.

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"In response, Saudi Arabia and other American allies in the region have made clear that they are seeking to bolster independent regional security measures because they see the proposed accord as a betrayal of Washington's commitment to their security." [emphasis, mine]

Keep in mind, Kirkpatrick is not writing about Benjamin Netanyahu feeling betrayed here, he's writing about "Saudi Arabia and other American allies."

It should not be lost on anyone that one of the reasons the Obama White House might be less interested than previous Administrations in keeping the Arab League states happy is because of the amount of oil and natural gas that US companies are producing.

As our dependence on OPEC oil continues to wane, the Saudis an the other oil-producing nations in the region may be coming to realize they have to take a greater role in their own security.

Will this be a good thing or a bad thing?

Stay tuned.

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