Condemn the Arab League's stance on Somalia

January 08, 2007|By Matthew Mainen

As Ethiopian troops made haste toward Mogadishu at the request of Somalia's legitimate government, the 22-member Arab League demanded that Ethiopia withdraw its troops "immediately." In other words, the idea of national sovereignty, the hallmark of international law, means little to the Arab League.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia and Sudan claim not only to understand international law but also to follow it. Of course, such countries have broken nearly every international convention on human rights, but for these countries to demonstrate outright disdain for the very foundation of international law is reprehensible. It is disheartening that no government, international organization or politician has had the courage to condemn the Arab League's stark hypocrisy.

Although Somalia's true government controlled a minority of Somali territory, it still maintained all of the sovereign rights held by a legitimate state. To some degree, the Somali government functioned as a government in exile, and it was under its sovereign power to invite another sovereign to intervene in a domestic struggle.

The member-states of the Arab League are well aware of this basic concept in international law. Far from any moderate fa?ade that the Arab League presents, it fully supports illegitimate and despotic regimes that represent the perversion of Islam. Blaming only terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida for the rise of Islamic extremism is intellectually dishonest. We must look to governments that provide moral and material support to some of the worlds' most repressive regimes.

Somalia's illegitimate Islamic Courts Union has been heavily financed by sympathizers in Saudi Arabia. On Dec. 27, leading Saudi Wahhabi cleric Sheik Salman al-Odah appeared on Al-Jazeera and called upon Saudis to go to Somalia to aid the Islamic militias in their jihad. It should be noted that Sheik al-Odah is on the payroll of the Saudi monarchy and regularly appears on government-funded television programs. Moreover, he is a leading supporter of the insurgency in Iraq and has developed a reputation for his effectiveness in giving insurgents critical aid. He has spent a great deal and sent many suicide bombers to Sunni militias in Iraq.

Given Sheik al-Odah's consistent patterns of behavior and efficacy, we can expect that hundreds of well-financed Saudis will join Somalia's Islamic militias in the next few months to join in the expected guerrilla insurgency. All of this will be done right under the nose of the Saudi monarchy. Just as Saudi Arabia has failed to significantly curb the outflow of insurgents to Iraq, it is likely that the same will hold true for Somalia.

If we are to give the government of Saudi Arabia the benefit of the doubt, the best we can say is that the monarchy does not attempt to cork the flow of terrorism to other countries because otherwise the "organized resistance" would be directed toward the libertine royal family.

When it comes to Sudan, however, no such leeway can possibly be given. On Aug. 31, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1706, which called for nearly 22,000 peacekeepers to mitigate the conflict in Darfur. Not surprisingly, Sudan vocally opposed the resolution, saying the peacekeeping forces represented "foreign invaders." In other words, the Sudanese government believed the Security Council was encroaching upon its inherent territorial sovereignty, the very same sovereignty that Sudan has denied the legitimate government of Somalia. Sudan, of course, has a vested interest in a prolonged Somali conflict, which, with the right support, the Ethiopian military can easily quell; once the conflict in Somalia ends, the international spotlight will return to Darfur and the Sudanese government's support of the genocidal janjaweed militia.

Interestingly enough, Sheik al-Odah, the same person who is funding the Islamic Courts Union and Sunni insurgents in Iraq, has been a regular visitor to Sudan and a strong supporter of the janjaweed's campaign against the people of Darfur. It is clear that certain members of the Arab League are in cahoots with one another to promote strict Islamism. For this reason, it is essential that the United States and the international community fully embrace Ethiopia's tactful reinstallation of Somalia's true government and condemn the Arab League for its "forgetfulness" when it comes to international law.

Fighting terrorism head-on is not enough; a clear stand must be made against the oppressive ideology that pervades the Arab world. This means taking a stern and vocal position against the Arab League when it explicitly and implicitly supports regimes whose actions shock the conscience.

Matthew Mainen is a senior policy analyst at the Institute for Gulf Affairs. His e-mail is matt_mainen@gulfinstitute.org.

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