Arab leaders in Egypt for the Arab League summit this weekend are inching closer to creating a joint military force, as the situation in Yemen deteriorates and the turmoil in Libya worsens, the Associated Press reported. The gathering comes shortly after Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes in Yemen against Iranian-backed Shiite insurgents, known as Houthis. Many of the Arab League’s 22 members have rallied behind the Saudi-led campaign, and they could express support for a proposed joint force during the summit.
Foreign ministers gathered in the Egyptian city of Sharm el-Sheikh Thursday before the two-day summit beginning Saturday, and they agreed on preliminary plans for the military force. They called on the Arab League’s chiefs of staff to meet within a month to sort out the details, including a budget. “The resolution sends a clear message that Arab nations can agree on a plan to defend themselves,” Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby said at a news conference the same day, AP reported.
Such a force would allow the Arab League to intervene in regional hotspots. Challenges today include the growing influence of Iranian power in Yemen and the rising threat of Islamist militants in Libya. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri said the proposed force would undertake “quick and effective missions.”
Saudi Arabia and its allies recently began a campaign of airstrikes against Shiite Houthi militant rebels in Yemen. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates announced in a joint statement that they “decided to repel Houthi militias, al Qaeda and [the Islamic State group] in the country,” according to Al Arabiya. They said the Iranian-backed militants, who have taken over much of Yemen, were a “major threat” to the Arab region’s stability and were “backed by regional powers in order for it to be their base of influence.”
Some of the Arab League’s members, such as Iraq and Syria, are hesitant to form a joint Arab military force because they are allied with Iran, according to AP. But other countries, such as Egypt and Sudan, have expressed enthusiastic support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.
A number of Arab heads of state are attending the summit. They include Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and Qatari Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, according to the Daily News Egypt. Hadi traveled to Egypt under Saudi protection Friday, Reuters reported.