The Middle-East Point of View
In its recent meetings the Arab League has given a full airing to its internal dissensions without being able to do much to resolve them. Its greatest achievement has been to avert the total break- down of its own conference machinery—a breakdown which on more than one occasion has appeared to be almost inevitable. The meeting which began this week at Cairo finds the old differences still very much alive ; as before, there will probably prove to be a sharp conflict of opinion between the views of Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the one hand and Iraq and Jordan on the other, the only realignment of forces coming from Syria which, on this occasion, apparently finds itself nearer to the Hashimite point of view than to the Egyptian. Although the agenda of the conference is as usual fairly lengthy, the debates are expected to concentrate on an attempt to define the position of the Middle East in the world of today. This is neither an easy nor a congenial• task for Arab statesmen. For no nations of the world is neutrality a more desirable or a more impossible aim than for those of the Middle East. There is
an almost universal feeling among their citizens (which has also recently been expressed by the Prime Minister of Israel) that the quarrels which split the world are in no sense their making and in only a very limited sense their concern. There is, to be sure, genuine alarm among the Arabs at the possible spread of Com- munism. but this new fear has not yet succeeded in driving out the traditional suspicion of " imperialism." Egypt in particular, the richest and potentially the strongest Power in the Middle East, is still too obsessed with the wish to see British troops depart to be able to consider realistically how the vacuum created by their departure would be filled. There are signs that Iraq and Syria, both within an hour's flying time of Russian aerodromes, have grown more conscious of the limitations on Arab's powers of self-defence. The valuable part which the nations of the Middle East can play as intermediaries has recently been shown at Lake Success. It would be a great step forward if the current meeting of the Arab League could show that its member States are now prepared to forget their internal and external animosities and co-operate with other friendly nations in the search for peace.