The Fall of Arab Nationalism and its Folkloric League

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In the wake of the Second World War, the presence of powerful international and regional organizations, which can preserve peace and play effective mediatory roles between nations, emerged as an imperative requirement to all nations. To address that global need, international organizations and regional leagues, such as the United Nations (UN), the League of Arab States (LAS) and the like, were instituted in many parts of the world.

On the international arena, the United Nations was established, on 24 October 1945, as a substitute for the inefficient League of Nations (LN), to promote international co-operation, prevent armed conflicts, settle international disputes and maintain world peace. Besides peace and security, its main objectives, as in its charter, were set to protect human rights, foster global human and socioeconomic development, support general health, preserve the environment, and provide humanitarian aid to all.

Seven months earlier, six Arab states (Egypt, Iraq, Transjordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Lebanon) convened in Cairo, on 22 March 1945, bringing forth to the first Arab regional organization: the League of Arab States (LAS), widely known as the Arab League. The principal objectives of Arab League were to “draw closer the relations between member States and co-ordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries”.

Despite the fact that few advanced countries have made several self-originated endeavors to push for peace and promote development; the world remains in a messy state mainly because the United Nations and Arab League were inefficient and meager to cope with most issues. Disregarding the fact that their objectives were reversed to achieve the contrary.  Seeing that their projected human development processes turned into impoverishment of the middle class, economic development initiatives turned into economic crises and high unemployment rates, social evolvement projects gave birth to extremism, intermediation became a name of favoritism, international cooperation transformed into dominance, and human rights became irrelevant–not to mention armed aggression and nuclearization

Like or not, considering the current degenerative conditions here and there, the unfortunate fact remains that the two seventy-year-old organizations, the UN and LAS, fell short to achieve its objectives thus and so failed to serve their founding principles. Though the UN had some successes and stack of failures, yet the Arab League success record is empty but full of disappointments.

Bringing back into memory the tragedy of 1948 when Arab countries alongside the Arab League couldn’t recapture the Palestinian land from Israel nor were diplomatically shrewd enough to deal with the Palestinian rights on the international level. Again, after twenty-two years, the Arab League was incapable to find a solution to the dramatic armed conflict between Jordan and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) in September 1970, which led to the expulsion of the armed PLO from Jordan to Lebanon and other neighboring countries.

Add up that the Arab league was impotent for around 20 years, from 1975 to 1989, before it could formulate a solution to Lebanon’s seventeen-year-long civil war. Again, in 1990, the LAS and Arab counties could not manage to solve the Iraqi -Kuwaiti dispute over oil, which led to the foolish Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and its detrimental consequences on the Arab world.  Time and again, the Arab world and its league came short to defuse the unjustified U.S war on Iraq in 2003; or to contain the Syrian belligerence after their involuntary withdrawal from Lebanon in 2005; or to mediate a solution to the Sudanese problem before the UN bisected Sudan in 2011; or to de-escalate the Iranian Shiite insurrection in Bahrain.

Notwithstanding those tragic lessons, the Arab League along with most Arab states did the same mistake in 2011, as they abandoned more than twenty-four million Syrians to face Assad’s brutal regime and pro-Iranian paramilitary groups alone without real help, which opened the door for radical armed extremists. Actually, they did not dare to send Arab peacekeeping troops to stop the massacres and enforce peace in Syria before it turned into a regional Sunni-Shia war. To make it worse, Arab governments did not consider freezing their diplomatic ties with Iran, Russia, and China; or, at least, to put consequential economic pressure and restrictive trade measures on Iran and Russia to push both countries to reassess the cost of supporting Syria’s tyrant.

From Syria to Arabia to Morocco, Arab people denounce the dispiriting reality of the Arab League knowing that it is a reflection of uneven relations between most Arab states. Actually, the general political, economic and cultural levels of cooperation between many nations are below the baselines of ordinary formal relations. Nonetheless, when it comes to state-relations among one ethnic group of countries or league of states, Arab-Arab relations are very frail despite the flimsy cosmetic role of the Arab League.

Arab Foreign Ministers meeting in Cairo, at the Arab League on March 9, 2014. Photo Source:
Arab Foreign Ministers meeting in Cairo, at the Arab League on March 9, 2014. Photo Source:

A look at Arab interrelations will reveal a general case of mistrust, hidden antipathy and involuntary cooperation, most of which stem from the interference of one state in the national affairs of another. A review of Arab-Arab relations will unmask a history of confrontational relations and political conflicts while the Arab League was a wary bystander.

Among those old and renewed cases, there are some serious conflicts, which need special conciliatory efforts, like those of Syria and Iraq, Syria and Palestinian Authorities, Syria and Gulf countries, Syria and Egypt, Iraq and Kuwait, Iraq and Jordan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt, Egypt and Libya, Algeria and Morocco, and Syria’s malign interference in Lebanon’s affairs— not to discuss the recent diplomatic divorce between GCC and Qatar.

Alas, now as then, it seems that most Arab authorities are either unwilling or not resourceful enough to embody the public socio-political mindset of Arab nationals. On top of that, the LAS keeps proving day-after-day its incapability to deal with Arab issues— let alone its diplomatic incompetency to represent the Arab world on the international theater.

Given this gloomy history, the root question in the Arab psychic is whether the Arab world has the characteristics of a nation or not. Most Arabs now wonder if the sameness of language, social rituals, and geographic proximity are enough to make of them a nation. Bearing in mind that the most important features of being a nation are about having one political identity, one unified front in wartime and peacetime, compatible societal values, equal distribution of national wealth and resources, no residency permit and travel requirements across its states, and support each other in crises. Otherwise, what is the purpose?

Forthrightly, the old Arab dream of having a real and strong Arab nation is fading away as never before. Meanwhile, the majority of Arab people see the abandonment of Syrian people as the final episode of Arab’s long-played fiction: Arab national unity. By all odds, Arab leadership has to consider one of two options in the approaching Arab Annual Summit in Kuwait, on 25th of this March.  Either they revive Arab momentum to end the massacres in Syria—no matter what, or start digging the grave of Arab nationalism and its folkloric Arab League.


Mohammad S. Moussalli is a well-known Lebanese writer. He has a reputable journalistic experience, as commentary writer, with a renowned regional English daily newspaper and web-based gazette. He holds a long list of esteemed published articles, mostly centered on human rights, civil liberties, socioeconomic development and sociopolitical issues.

Mr. Moussalli is an independent management consultant with senior executive management experience in general trading and contracting in the Middle East and Gulf region. He devises reorganization plans and provides advice on business planning, administration, operations, pay and benefit scales, and many other issues.

Mr. Moussalli blogs at





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  1. Knowing the excellence of Mr. Moussalli’s articles, I am surprised not to see many more comments. Perhaps the topic of this article is going over our heads because many of us are not so familiar with the Arab situation as a whole. I was dismayed to read the extend of problems about Arab States. I wonder id there is one that is not engaged in some kind of conflict with another one.
    After so many years of Independence from Colonial powers, one would expect that many conflicts would have found a resolution by now.
    The League of Nations at the beginning of the 20th century and the United Nations have not succeeded in bringing the Arab States together and neither has the Arab league. It would be good to understand why. A unified Arabia would be a great power and wield much influence in the world. Why are Arabs so powerless to deal with their divisions considering the cost that these nations have to pay. The case of the Syrian refugees come to mind.
    Not being Arab and knowing that Mr. Moussalli is an expert on the subject, I have no suggestion to put forward to bring a lasting peace in MENA.
    It is sad to see brothers fighting brothers instead of helping each others reach prosperity such in Dubai and AbuGabhi.
    The solution to this non ending problem is in the hands of writers such as Mohammad Moussalli who know enough to have a real influence and who is respected in the Arab world. Perhaps, Mr. Moussalli’s writings will guide willing countries to pursue a path of good will and cooperation to integrate the Arab world into one Common Union capable of playing a determining role in the world of nations and States by respecting the individual citizen and its faith and by giving full equality to women so that their contribution to their country of origin will aid the said country to reach its full potential.
    Keep writing , Mohammad, keep selling your ideas and your experience so that some day dissensions of the past will only be a painful memory.
    Thank you,
    Romy Kerwin

    • Romy,
      Thank you indeed. Your analysis came rich and smart, as always. You have touched so many hidden issues while you are neither an Arab nor living in an Arab country. For that, I congratulate you.

      As for the lack of comments, it’s due to some server problem at and after the time of publishing. As results, many people inserted their comments at Middle East Tribune.
      I assure you that I will do my best to keep sending my open messages, especially when I have people like you on my side

      Thank you again Romy

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