Turkey started its military operation in Syria on 9 October aiming, according to Ankara, to secure a 30 km-wide safe zone along the border. It is planning to clear the zone of Kurdish YPG militants, which are regarded as terrorists by Turkey. Local Arab Syrians were ethnically cleansed by the YPG after the latter liberated the area from Daesh in 2014.
According to Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Operation Peace Spring will help up to 2 million Syrians to resettle in a safe area in their homeland. However, many countries have described the Turkish operation as an invasion which will destabilise the area and could see Daesh fighters escaping from YPG prisons and free again to wreak even more havoc.
At the end of a meeting of the Arab League three days after the start of the Turkish operation, the organisation’s Secretary-General, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, issued a communique which called Turkey’s move an “invasion of an Arab state’s land and aggression against its sovereignty”.
Such an angry response is to be expected from countries which want to protect Israel and make its neighbours permanently weak. However, it is totally unacceptable for the Arab League to react this way. Turkey is doing what the Arab League’s members should be doing by seeking to resettle Syrian refugees in their homeland.
According to Reuters, the Arab League pledged that it would consider taking economic, investment and cultural measures against Turkey; tourism and military cooperation could be hit by these. It also called on the UN Security Council to “take the necessary measures to stop the Turkish aggression and (for) the withdrawal from Syrian territory immediately.”
Where were the Arab League, its Secretary-General and its members when the YPG, Daesh and even Al-Qaeda affiliates were fighting each other, with some committing war crimes against civilians, including ethnic cleansing and mass displacement? Where were they when the Syrian, Russian and US-led armies were striking civilian houses, mosques, schools and hospitals? Where were they when hundreds of thousands of Syrian civilians were killed and millions more were displaced after the start of the crisis in 2011? Why is the organisation critical of an action intended to help solve one of the worst crises facing Arab nations, but has no solution of its own on the table?
“Everyone is talking about the refugee crisis,” said Arab writer Khalaf Al-Habtoor, “…except the League of Arab States.” He pointed out that the League has “had little to say on the topic and, as far as I can tell, has no plan to help alleviate the problem.”
Referring to the wealthy Arab states, Al-Habtoor noted that 22 have wealth and land, but only two of the poorest in the Arab League, Jordan and Lebanon, “are bearing the brunt of the refugee influx.” If they had any dignity and self-respect, the League’s member states would have backed Ankara with money and troops to liberate all of Syria from the terrorism of the YPG, Daesh and the Syrian regime headed by Bashar Al-Assad.
Aboul Gheit had no comment about the American and Russian occupation of Syria, and the bases that they have established there to serve their own interests. The Russians have been helping the Syrian regime to kill its own people and the US has been helping Syrians to kill each other in order to have a foothold in the country.
If the Arab League considers the Turkish operation in a tiny strip of north-east Syria an “invasion of an Arab state’s land and aggression against its sovereignty”, what does it call the Israeli occupation of Palestine? Where are the League’s calls for the UN Security Council to take essential measures to end that particularly brutal military occupation?
Instead, we see the Arab League and its members rushing to normalise ties with Israel whilst, at the same time, punishing the Palestinians by detaining them, deporting them and besieging them. The very least that the League should be doing is to condemn the daily ethnic cleansing of whole Arab communities in the Negev; the daily desecration of mosques, including the third holiest site in the Muslim world in Jerusalem; and the daily raids in Palestinian cities, towns and villages. More than 2 million “Arabs” in the Gaza Strip have been under a strict siege for over 13 years, and yet the Arab League’s members are falling over themselves to normalise links with the perpetrator of such acts.
Moreover, Israel has been occupying the most strategic part of Syria, the Golan Heights, since 1967, and has been striking Arab countries for years and carrying out attacks in some of their capitals. So why does the Arab League not speak out against Israeli aggression, or even Iranian influence in “Arab” Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria?
Even though I am an Arab, I do not care about the Arab League and its communiques, which are not worth the paper they are written on. The organisation has failed Arab causes ever since it was established in 1945. This is hardly surprising, though, given that the people are represented in the organisation by the tyrants and dictators who oppress them at home. None of the Arab leaders who pretend to represent the Arab world have come to power through free and fair elections.
“Ineffective in world politics,” wrote Mohammad Pervez Bilgrami in a Turkish newspaper last year, “the Arab League has proven a disaster for both Arabs and Muslims and has only helped to promote despotism in Arab countries while serving the interests of their former colonial rulers.” When the League and its members make such pronouncements, we can be certain that they do so at the bidding of those former colonial rulers.
It is apparent that the Arab League has forgotten that Turkey hosts 3.6 million Syrian refugees, while all of its member states together — Jordan and Lebanon excepted — do not host more than a few thousand. Ahmed Aboul Gheit’s statement is thus not only shameful, but also an exposure of the organisation’s crass hypocrisy.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.