Egypt: Joint Arab Force to Combat ISIS, Iran Will be Ready Within Four Months

Egypt's ex-army chief and leading presidential candidate Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gives his first television interview since announcing his candidacy in Cairo on May 4, 2014. Sisi is expected to win the May 26-27 election easily riding on a wave of popularity after he ousted in July Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president. The 59-year-old retired field marshal, dressed in a suit and appearing composed and often smiling in what was a pre-recorded interview, is seen by supporters as a strong leader who can restore stability, but his opponents fear that might come at the cost of freedoms sought in the pro-democracy uprising three years ago. AFP PHOTO/STR

David Daoud

The proposed timeline for the establishment of a joint Arab military force is four months, revealed Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry on Thursday

Speaking to London-based pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat on the sidelines of a trip to Eritrea in East Africa, Shoukry said there were already technical crews working on the project.

Shoukry refused to divulge details from the recent meeting of Arab chiefs of staff concerning the creation of the joint force, saying only that the force would be ready in four months.

The idea of the Joint Arab Force was first introduced by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi, who said it was a necessity to combat the expansion of the Islamic State, which currently has strongholds in Syria and Iraq.

The rising threat of Iranian regional influence also adds urgency to the Arab countries’ plan, particularly as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fight to take over Yemen, and the Saudi-led intervention to roll them back advances.

“The need for a unified Arab force is growing and becoming more pressing every day,” said Sisi back in February. The Egyptian president said he had received offers from both Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to help in the endeavor by sending troops.

“The challenges in the region and those facing our countries are huge … We can overcome those challenges once we are together,” said Sisi.

Last month, Shoukry said that the joint Arab force was necessary to combat the threats of extremism in the region, and that this force would undertake ”quick and effective missions” aimed at rebuffing growing threats to regional stability.

In late March, Arab foreign ministers assembled at an Arab League summit in Egypt’s Sharm Al-Sheikh adopted a draft resolution in support of the force’s creation.

The proposed force will be twice the size of NATO’s Response Force, at 40,000 men, according to an Arab League source. It will be based in Egypt, and will be led by a yet-to-be-determined Saudi officer.

The source also told Defense News that “the majority of the units will be from Egypt and Morocco, with Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Jordan also providing troops, while other countries will have smaller numbers included. The force would be made up of an air command, a naval command and a land operations command.”

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby spoke optimistically of the measures, which received broad support from Egypt, Kuwait, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

“The resolution sends a clear message that Arab nations can agree on a plan to defend themselves,” Elaraby said.

Iraq and Syria – two Arab countries with very close ties to Iran – opposed the creation of a joint Arab army.

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