‘Urgent need’ for unified Arab force to counter radicals

Updated 11 March 2015

‘Urgent need’ for unified Arab force to counter radicals

CAIRO: Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby called on Monday for the creation of a unified Arab force to battle the spread of extremist groups.
“There is an urgent need for the creation of a multi-purpose common Arab military force... able to intervene rapidly to fight terrorism and the activities of terrorist groups,” Elaraby told a meeting of league foreign ministers in Cairo.
He also stressed the importance of “cooperation in areas related to security protection and the exchange of information between Arab countries.”
Arab League deputy chief Ahmed Ben Helli told reporters last week that the bloc’s leaders are expected to focus on the creation of such a common force when they meet for its annual summit on March 28-29 in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh.
He had said such a force was important as a “symbolic” show of deterrence at times of “conflict or disasters.”
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi has also called for such a force, saying it is needed to confront security threats in a region where the Islamic State group holds swathes of Syria and Iraq and has gained a foothold in Egypt’s neighbor Libya.
He has suggested that a number of Arab League members, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE and Jordan, are considering supporting the idea.
Meanwhile, the US military’s top officer warned Monday that the international coalition fighting Islamic State extremists could be jeopardized if the Baghdad government fails to bridge Iraq’s sectarian divide.
Iraq’s political leaders have yet to deliver on promises to reach out to the Sunni population and have raised concerns in the region by forging closer ties to Shiite-led Iran, Gen. Martin Dempsey said after spending several hours in Baghdad.
For the longer term, the solidarity of the anti-IS coalition — which includes Sunni Arab states — could be put at risk, Dempsey told reporters in Manama.
Flying over Baghdad by helicopter earlier, Dempsey noted Shiite militia banners flying over many buildings, describing “the plethora of flags, only one of which happens to be the Iraqi flag.” He said Sunni Arab countries in the region, several of which are taking part in air strikes in Syria, were anxious over Iran’s influence in Iraq.

US bolsters Middle East force with 1,500 troops as Pentagon blames Iran for tanker attacks

Updated 15 min 14 sec ago

US bolsters Middle East force with 1,500 troops as Pentagon blames Iran for tanker attacks

  • Donald Trump says the additional troops would serve a 'mostly protective' role
  • The US began reinforcing its presence in the Arabian Gulf region earlier this month

WASHINGTON: The US will strengthen its force in the Middle East with 1,500 extra troops, Donald Trump said Friday as the Pentagon blamed Iran for an attack on oil tankers off the coast of the UAE.

"We want to have protection in the Middle East," Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to Japan. "We're going to be sending a relatively small number of troops, mostly protective.
"Some very talented people are going to the Middle East right now. And we'll see what happens."

Shortly after his comments, the Pentagon accused Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) of being directly responsible for attacks on tankers off the UAE earlier this month, describing it as part of a "campaign" by Tehran driving new US deployments.
"The attack against the shipping in Fujairah we attribute it to the IRGC," said Rear Admiral Michael Gilday, the director of the Joint Staff, adding the Pentagon attributed limpet mines used in the attack to the IRGC. He declined to describe "the means of delivery" of the mines.

The 1,500 extra troops will be made up of a deployment of 900 more forces, including engineers, and the extension of a tour by some 600 personnel manning Patriot missiles.

Officials said earlier that members of Congress were notified following a White House meeting Thursday to discuss Pentagon proposals to bolster the force in the region.
Earlier this week, officials said that Pentagon planners had outlined plans that could have sent up to 10,000 military reinforcements to the region. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan later said planners had not settled on a figure.
The US began reinforcing its presence in the Arabian Gulf region this month in response to what it said was a threat from Iran.

*With AP and Reuters