Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 July 2019

Arab unity is needed to tackle regional challenges

Working together will be increasingly vital in an era of divided global powers

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, speaks during a press conference at his office in Dubai. AFP
UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, speaks during a press conference at his office in Dubai. AFP

These pages have long argued that the Arab world must rise to meet the challenges it faces and take control of its own fate. And now, in an increasingly unpredictable world, that stance is more important than ever. Across the Middle East, conflict and its aftermath remain decisive threats to stability. Just days ago, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces defeated ISIS in Baghouz, the group’s last stronghold, but Syria’s future remains deeply uncertain. The Assad regime has vowed to retake all of the country – including SDF-controlled territory – which threatens to plunge Syria into another cycle of violence and render it fertile ground for an ISIS comeback. In the background looms the need to resolve Syria’s humanitarian crisis and rebuild it and neighbouring Iraq. Arab states must play a proactive role in Syria’s future - and in Iraq’s - as regional powers vie for influence there.

Tehran remains a destabilising force throughout the Middle East. In war-torn Yemen, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels have plunged the nation into civil war, while Hezbollah’s influence has pervaded the highest echelons of Lebanon’s government. Luckily, US and EU sanctions are undermining the endeavours of Iran and its proxies. Elsewhere in recent days, US President Donald Trump’s recognition of the occupied Syrian Golan Heights as Israeli, and ongoing Israeli shelling in Gaza, have pushed one of the region’s most intractable conflicts back into the spotlight. The US stance clearly favours Israel, making it all the more crucial for Arab states to rally behind Palestinians and Arab interests. Meanwhile, Libya remains war-torn and divided as it stumbles towards precarious elections this year and in Algeria and Sudan, thousands have taken to the streets demanding a change of leadership.

There can be no better solution to these problems than a strong Arab regional order. During the Ideas Abu Dhabi Forum, held this week at New York University Abu Dhabi, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Dr Anwar Gargash urged more cross-border unity in the Arab world amid divisions within Europe and between the US and China. As the region’s challenges mount, there is an increased urgency for Arab states to safeguard their people from internal struggles and malign foreign influence.

Updated: March 28, 2019 05:59 PM

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