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Fearing Iran, Arab armies plan joint force for 1st time.

The chiefs of staff of the Arab armies have drafted a plan for a joint force to intervene in Middle East hotspots to foil Islamic militants and Iran-backed groups.

The plan was drafted by the armies of the 21 Arab League states. The League has talked about such a joint force for more than half a century, but it has never come to anything.

Whether this new effort will come off paper remains to be seen, but fears of the advance of Islamic State troops and of Iranian-backed groups has struck enough fear into the Arab states to actually put something on paper now.

The plan, drafted at a gathering Sunday in Cairo, describes where and how the force would be put into action. Membership is "voluntary," the draft says, and if only three of the members sign up, it's enough to put the plan into action. A decision to intervene would be based on a request from a member state "facing threats." The idea of an Arab joint force has already been put into effect in the ongoing coalition of nine Arab air forces to conduct air strikes in Yemen. But no ground force has been put together.

Defense ministers of member states would run the force, with a two-third majority required to make decisions. Military plans on engagements would be up to the member states' military chiefs.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter endorsed the Arab joint force concept and State Department officials said the United States was waiting to see the exact structure and operational mandate of the joint force. Washington has long urged the Arabs to take more responsibility for their own defense and rely less on the United States.

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Publication:Iran Times International (Washington, DC)
Date:Jun 26, 2015
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