The Arab League has agreed in principle to establish its own military force designed to combat the threat from Islamist extremists in the region, as the 22-member grouping said that Saudi-led airstrikes against Yemeni Shiite insurgents would continue until the rebels “withdraw and surrender their weapons.”
Egypt’s state-run news agency says that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi and leaders of the other states in the League agreed on broad details for forming a joint force that could be rapidly deployed in hot spots to restore peace and security. Participation in the force would be optional, however.
The Wall Street Journal reports that al-Sissi and “other leaders from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have in recent weeks called for such a force to fight extremism in countries such as Libya, Syria and Iraq, and counter the regional threat of Shiite Iran. Egypt is part of a Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition that last week began a campaign of airstrikes against Iranian-backed Houthis rebels in Yemen.”
However, Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir tells NBC’s Meet the Press: “We haven’t made the decision to send ground troops in so far. So far, it’s been an air campaign. And we have a plan in motion. And we’re executing this plan,” adding that his country was “determined to protect the people of Yemen. And, so, we will continue this campaign until those objectives are achieved.”
The Associated Press has a bit of background:
“The decision by the Arab League puts it on a path to more aggressively challenge Shiite power Iran, which is backing the Yemeni rebels, known as Houthis.
“A Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen on Thursday, saying it was targeting the Houthis and their allies, which include forces loyal to Yemen’s former leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh. Current and former Yemeni military officials have said the campaign could pave the way for a possible ground invasion.”