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Russian pundits skeptical Arab states may succeed in creating joint army

March 30, 2015, 16:19 UTC+3 Zamyatina Tamara
© AP Photo/Hani Mohammed

MOSCOW, March 30. /TASS/. The League of Arab States’ decision to create a common army will be hard to implement; at best it is expected to produce a mass media effect, polled experts have told TASS.

The LAS summit last weekend decided to create a common Arab army with an estimated strength of 40,000 men. The measure was taken against the backdrop of a mounting military operation in Yemen, where Shiite Houthi rebels have gained control of the north-west of the country, including the capital Sana and the port of Aden. LAS Secretary-General Nabil al-Arabi has said the task of a yet-to-be created army will be prompt military intervention in response to threats to the security of Arab states."

The chief of the Military and Political Studies Center at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations (MGIMO), Alexey Podberyozkin, has dismissed the task of creating a common army of the Arab states in the near future having a common general staff and unified arms and services as utterly unrealistic. "Any army implies a vertical chain of command and strict subordination. Some of the states concerned have been unable to come to terms between themselves. They are certainly unable to create joint armed forces under a unified command. At best they might succeed in creating a coalition of special units capable of sharing responsibility for certain segments of a front line," Podberyozkin told TASS.

"If a force of LAS crack units is formed in the end, it will be entirely on Saudi Arabia’s payroll, a country that represents the interests of the United States in the Middle East. Consequently, the group will be under the Pentagon’s command. In other words, Washington is once again playing a multi-move combination: it does nothing except for providing political support for a settlement of tensions over Yemen and in this way, indirectly, through the Saudis, it is trying to take the situation under control," Podberyozkin said.

The chief of the RAS International Security Center, Alexey Arbatov, has told TASS he has no faith the LAS countries will be able to create joint armed forces. "They have been unable to present a common front against Israel, so the chances they may unite against fellow Muslims are close to nothing," Arbatov said.

"Behind the LAS leaders’ declared intention to fight together against radical Islamists one is likely to find the Arab countries’ intention to team up against Iran, a country that makes them really scared. Iran has been promoting its religious Shiite groups in Bahrain, Syria, and Yemen in order to gain a commanding position in the Islamic world. At a certain point Iran had warned it might block the Persian Gulf, thereby upsetting the delivery of crude oil from the Arabian Peninsula to Europe. Although these days Yemen is the battle field, it is Iran that the Arab countries are about to confront by forming common armed forces," Arbatov said.

"The international negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program add to the fears of the Arab countries’ leaders. If the outcome of negotiations is successful for Tehran, Iran will be exempt from the under the threat of sanctions and a military strike. Thereby Iran would upset Saudi Arabia’s monopoly on partnership with the West. In the current line-up in the Middle East a religious war is mixed up with oil and geopolitical and geo-political interests," Arbatov believes.

And the president of the Middle East Institute, Yevgeny Satanovsky, agrees that the LAS decision to create a common army is empty talk having absolutely no value. "The Arab states are unable to establish any coordination of military operations apart from the token air strikes against the Shi’ite rebels in Yemen under the auspices of Saudi Arabia. Only some crack units of the armies of Jordan, Morocco and Qatar have some experience of combat interaction with US troops," Satanovsky told TASS.

"The coalition of Arab countries involved in the Storm of Resolve operation will not dare launch a ground offensive out of the fear a guerilla war many follow. Air strikes against the strongholds of radical Islamists will go on. Possibly, they may blockade the coast of Yemen in order to stem the flow of weapons and manpower to the Shi’ite rebels. That’s where joint actions by Arab states are about to end," Satanovsky said.

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