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The Arab League: Not Perfect, But All We Have!

In his upcoming book titled “The Years of the Arab League,” former secretary general of the Arab League and notable Egyptian diplomat Amr Moussa recounts his remarkable memories from a decade of service in the organization. Moussa stepped into his role just a few months before the September 11 attacks, and led the pan-Arab organization through one of its most tumultuous eras. When he entered office, he was warned that the organization’s days were numbered and that it would likely collapse. Moussa recalls a conversation with President Hosni Mubarak in which the latter told him “the number of times people warned me that the League is dead is too much to remember.” He advised his top diplomat against listening to these doomsday predictions. This short anecdote is a good reminder that, for all the frequent talk about the uselessness of the Arab League, the negativity of its role, and its supposed lack of influence, the League has actually endured and preserved through the biggest crises of the Arab world. Sure, the League is not devoid of shortcomings — sometimes because of its administration, sometimes because of its member states, and sometimes because of internal politics. We can cite many problems that exist within this dilapidated institution, including its financial and administrative bloat, but this doesn’t negate the fact that the survival of this institution is a top priority of the Arab world. Indeed, it is the only remnant from the era of Pan-Arabism. Today, it is the only institution that enhances cooperation among Arab states and strengthens their sense of common identity. The League remains a necessary body for Arabs to come together and mobilize against those who conspire against them. Perhaps because of this fact, Saudi Arabia, and most Gulf states, were keen to support this institution even during their most difficult days. Amr Moussa recounts that when he took office he was appalled by the administrative deterioration of the institution, its ramshackle buildings and offices, the weakness of its staff, and the lack of funding. He did everything he could to devote his tenure to rebuilding the League from the ground up, succeeding in recruiting the support of the entire Arab world. The generous support of the Saudi leadership was central to promoting this cause, and the late King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz provided an instrumental role in saving the League and ensuring its longevity in the future. – Mishary Al-Zayidi (translated by Asaf Zilberfarb)