[March 30, 2015] Something that has not happened before – at least in a very long time – is the formation of an Arab Army. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi appears to be leading the effort for Sunni Arabs to push back on extensive Shia military gains in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, and elsewhere.
This is not the first time al-Sisi’s leadership has shown itself on the world stage (see Senior Leader: Egypt’s President). Dominated by Saudi Arabia, this joint-Arab force is a direct response to the deteriorating situation in the Middle East; largely driven by Iran’s support of various Shia militias.1 Iran, of course, denies any involvement. But also with the U.S. President’s negotiating directly with Iran on nuclear weapons, without Arab input, has motivated Arab countries to act to protect their security interests.
The UN’s Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is asking all party’s to find a “peaceful solution.” Not surprisingly the UN is offering the same solution to all wars and that is for everyone to sit down, talk, and make peace. However, what Ki-moon is overlooking is the centuries-long Sunni-Shia conflict and the high price paid in blood; something very much in the front of everyone else’s mind. Many with knowledge of the Middle East say that peace will solve nothing.
Many questions are being asked and blame spread around. Will this Arab Army be grand in its accomplishments? Who is the good ally and who is the bad? Is this the beginning of the final battle between Sunni and Shia?
The West is largely standing to the side as this conflict flares up. The U.S. however is dealing with each country independent of one another and is largely ignoring the historical ties and conflicts. Whether that is the right strategy or not is difficult to answer because there has been no articulated strategy from anyone except the Islamic State (Sunni) and Iran (Shia).
Great senior leadership means making important decisions within the context of grand strategy. What does the future hold? No great senior leader has so far emerged. Egypt’s president has been the boldest and shown the best leadership to date. Let us hope he will lead when the Middle East needs it the most.
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