Calls by Arab League chief Nabil Al Arabi for a unified multinational Arab fighting force demonstrate the resolve necessary to confront the threats that affect every country in the region. But the idea should come as no surprise. Egypt’s president El Sisi recently suggested much the same thing and for the past several months, many Arab countries have taken an active role in the US-led coalition against ISIL. Mr Al Arabi’s remarks only highlight the determination to use all means necessary and present a strong, regionally unified front in the fight against terrorism. Every country in the region is threatened to a greater or lesser extent, so it is right that we should unite to defeat that threat.
There are precedents for a multinational Arab fighting force. In 1976, the newly created Arab Deterrent Force was deployed in Lebanon and was responsible for overseeing security and stopping the bloodletting. But the hard truth is that it is not easy to create a multinational fighting force. An integrated military structure would have to be created, command and control centres established and matters as basic – and essential – as ammunition and assets dovetailed.
Various models of military cooperation have been floated as examples for how a unified Arab military could operate. But it is Nato, the 28-country alliance of countries from North America and Europe, that may be the best template. All member countries that participate in the military aspect of the alliance contribute forces and equipment, but they remain under national command and control until they are required by Nato. The organisation also has some common capabilities such as the Awacs early warning radar aircraft.
Regardless of the challenges ahead, creating a unified fighting force is the right thing to do. The Arab world would thereby send a message of unity in the face of a global threat. More to the point, it would suit action to the rhetoric.