The Need for a Joint Arab Force against Terror

Yemeni special anti-terror forces execute a drill in the Saref area, on the northern outskirts of the capital Sanaa, on Jan. 23. (Photo: Marwan Naamani/ AFP-Getty Images)

In a discussion with American and European legislators, as well as with counterterrorism experts from the Arab world, I suggested the formation of an "Anti-Terror Joint Force" as a response to the expansion of terror organizations both al Qaeda- and Iranian-backed throughout the region. Over the past few years I have given briefings to the Anti-Terror Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives as well as to several defense agencies on how such an initiative could start among Arab governments and expand later to Muslim countries.

These countries in the Arab world are already fighting terrorism in general and al Qaeda in particular. Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Iraq and several Gulf states are confronting al Qaeda and jihadi Takfiris in their homelands. In some cases they are fighting networks backed by the Iranian regime, as is the case in Yemen, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. An Arab leadership on counterterrorism would pull these resources together, benefitting all countries involved, and would be backed by many Western countries. 

An Arab joint effort against terrorism would be beneficial not only on military and security levels but also on ideological levels. Arab intellectuals and NGOs, when approached and supported seriously, can be efficient in countering radicalization and indoctrination by jihadi Salafis and Khomeinists.

Furthermore, such a trans-Arab effort against terrorism would enhance the image of Arab countries and societies in the West and on the international stage. After 9/11, connections were made between the jihadists and entire Arab societies. With the rise of an Arab Anti-Terror Joint Force, these connections would be dismantled, and the international public would then see these countries coming together to defeat a common enemy.

The new Iraq, particularly, if successful in resisting al Qaeda and Iranian penetration, can become a leading regional force against terrorism. This is a country that is attacked every week by al Qaeda and constantly infiltrated by Iranian networks. Iraq is at the forefront of the war with the jihadi Salafists and Khomeinists. As U.S. and coalition forces are withdrawing, Iraq must be able to defend itself and resist future attacks. If such a regional Arab force against terror were established, Iraqi forces could make important strides in battling this menace.

Dr Walid Phares is an advisor to the Anti-Terror Caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives and the director of the Future Terrorism Project at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is the author of The Confrontation: Winning the War against Future Jihad.