Arab leaders, at a summit in Egypt on 29 March 2015, announced the formation of a unified military force to counter growing security threats from Yemen to Libya, and as regional heavyweights Saudi Arabia and Iran engage in sectarian proxy wars.
Working out the mechanism and logistics of the unified force, an idea floated by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, could take months.
Previous, similar schemes had failed to produce tangible results in the divided Arab world. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri told a news conference the Arab force would be voluntary, meaning no one country would be forced to take part and it could give member States flexibility should differences arise.
The unified force would be supervised by the chiefs of staffs of Arab armed forces.
The dangers facing the region since the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011 are stark and complex. While conflicts intensify in Yemen and Libya, the civil war in Syria is entering its fifth year. Egypt, the most populous Arab state, faces an Islamist militant insurgency.
Islamic State militants have taken over swathes of Iraq and Syria and spawned splinter groups across the Arab world. The United States and other major powers are seeking a final nuclear deal with Iran, in a process that worries many Sunni Arab leaders wary of Shi’ite Iran’s growing regional influence.