Arab League wary of Turkish, Iranian threats

The Arab League Secretary General is increasingly concerned over growing Iranian and Turkish dominance of the region.

PROTESTERS CLASH with police in Bahrain during 2011 Arab Spring protests (photo credit: REUTERS)
PROTESTERS CLASH with police in Bahrain during 2011 Arab Spring protests
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Arab League Secretary General Ahmmed Aboul Gheit has expressed increasing concern regarding the expanding roles of Iran and Turkey in the region. He has described their aspirations in Syria, and Turkey’s threats to send forces to Libya, as threats to Arab national security.
The comments were made in recent speeches, including a talk he gave on Wednesday to the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research, in which he discussed the issue of the Syrian regime returning to the 22-member Arab League.
Suspended from the group in 2011, some Arab countries have been eager to work with Syria again, viewing cooperation as a way to return stability to the region following the Arab Spring and civil conflicts that followed.
Jordan, the UAE, Egypt and others will be key to whether Syria returns.
Gheit has also twice this month condemned the increasing role of Iran and Turkey in the affairs of Arab states. In mid-December, at a World Youth Forum in Egypt, he said that the absence of strong national states has whet the appetite of the periphery non-Arab states.
He has also been critical of Israel, arguing that the Jewish nation took advantage of chaos in the region to reduce commitments to the Oslo peace process and the creation of a peace agreement with Palestinian statehood.
The Arab region has seen many of its key states decline into chaos in the last decade, including Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq. There are also political changes taking place in Sudan and Algeria. Overall the region lacks certainty and is at its weakest since many of these modern states were created in the 1920s.
Historical power centers like Baghdad, Cairo and Damascus have lost influence as power and cultural creation has shifted toward the Gulf,  making the current state of affairs historically resonant.
However, Persia and the Ottoman Empire have historically dominated the region, so the return of Turkey and Iran to power in places like Syria or Iraq is not an anomaly. The rise of the Ba’athist regimes of Assad and Saddam Hussein might be the exception and the Arab League may have seen its high point of influence pass years ago.
Nevertheless his speeches in the UAE and Egypt represent a regional view that links some of these countries at the heart of the Arab world and concerns they have about long-term Turkish occupation of Syria, and the decision by Turkey to now involve itself in Libya.