REGARDLESS of how they will end, the latest decisions by the Arab League Ministerial Council meeting in Doha last Monday represent a bold move to get rid of the current Arab order, in existence for more than six decades, at the time the features of the new one are yet to evolve.
Although the move looks more as a surprise, in fact, it is culminating a long process that dates back to the early hours of Aug. 2, 1990, when more than 100,000 Iraqi soldiers supported by 700 tanks rolled across the Kuwaiti borders. That move did not attack the sovereignty of an independent “sister” Arab country alone, but made a direct hit at the Arab order of the day.
In an unprecedented development, the Arab League emergency meeting called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down, vowing safe exit for him and his family, and on the opposition to form a transitional government. It also called on the United Nations to change the terms of reference of Kofi Annan’s mission. The meeting asked for a move to push the UN General Assembly to adopt decisions to create safe havens for civilians and cut all diplomatic ties with the Assad regime.
Damascus was quick to react, calling the decisions wishful thinking and a flagrant intervention in the affairs of a country that was one of the principal six founders of the Arab League in 1945.
While Damascus’ reaction was fixed on the past Arab order, where non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries was a sacred principle, the decisions taken in Doha looked to the future.
The previous order merely addressed Palestine, the primary issue for all Arabs. As a result, military coups were tolerated, delays in development were accepted as money would be spent to liberate Palestine, and calls for civil liberties and transparency were ignored.
The battle to liberate Palestine and open the door for Arab unity kept the old Arab dream afloat and became the source of legitimacy for the Arab order until the invasion of Kuwait. It then became clear that non-interference in the affairs of other countries led to Iraq making that reckless move.
The move was directed against the most vulnerable part of the Arab world: the Gulf states. It was enough for Saddam Hussein to occupy Kuwait and take over 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves and unchallenged influence on the rest of the GCC countries.
It is no surprise that the move to oust Assad is led by Qatar, with various degrees of support from other GCC countries. It is more than an act of revenge two decades later, but rather a move trying to build a new Arab order. Unlike other regimes in the region, the GCC countries are legitimate in their recognition of the historical role of the ruling families in their countries and the role played by those families in the socioeconomic development of their societies. That is why these societies have escaped the Arab Spring.
The push for change in Syria and previously in Libya have opened the way for Islamist groups that have long been suppressed. Add Tunisia and Egypt, and a new political force with popular backing emerges.
It remains to be seen whether these developments will eventually lead to a new Arab order keen on founding its legitimacy on the people recognizing their rulers, whose main concern will be the welfare of the people in their country.
Equally challenging is the institutionalization of a new Arab order based on people’s participation and recognition, which started on an ad hoc basis.
n This article is exclusive to Arab News