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Stuck in the barracks: the Joint Arab Force

12 October 2015

It all seemed too good to be true: the Arab world was to get its own collective security architecture at last. In January 2015, the Arab League Secretariat went beyond previously mooted ideas of a limited military alliance and proposed a joint Arab rapid intervention force. The objective of the force would be to combat terrorism and it would fall under the 1950 military defence pact. Egypt’s President Sisi swiftly picked up on this proposal, declaring that ‘the need for a unified Arab force is growing and becoming more pressing every day’. King Hamad of Bahrain backed this call, and the Arab summit in March 2015 endorsed the idea in what its Secretary General dubbed a ‘historic development’: a Joint Arab Force (JAF). Alas, in late August it all came to an abrupt halt: Saudi Arabia, with support from other Gulf states, has delayed the next meeting concerning the force’s establishment indefinitely. What went wrong, and is the project doomed?