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The Confederation of Arab States (CAS) is a political entity that unites the former Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire establish in 1920, immediately after the end of the Arab Revolt and World War I.
The CAS covers the lands of Levant, Mesopotamia and the majority of the Arabian Peninsula. It is bordered by Turkey to the north, Iran and Kuwait to the east, Egypt, and the mandates of Palestine and Levant to the west, in the South and South West of the Arabic Peninsula it borders with several protectorates and colonies of the Imperial Commonwealth Federation (Bahrain, Qatar, Muscat, Trucial States and Oman and Eden Colony).
Origins of the CAS
On the negotiations of the Paris Peace Conference in 1920 the interests of France and the United Kingdom regarding the Middle East came to conflict. France asked for the territories of Syria and Lebanon. UK favored the nascent Arab States, honoring the compromises made to the Sharif of Mecca, Hussein bin Ali, in the wake of the Arab Revolt. Part of the promises called for the establishment of an independent Arab State or a Confederation of Arab States on former Turkish provinces of Middle East and Arabic Peninsula. Pressure also came on the proclamation of the Kingdom of Syria under Faisal bin al-Hussein (Faisal I). The solution of this diplomatic episode would be known as the Arab Solution and would affect the status of Palestine.
The negotiations of the three parties ended in the following points: The recognition of the Confederation of Arab States, as an independent confederation of Arab States. UK would guarantee its independence and protection by means of a Defense Treaty, in exchange of keeping its existing protectorates on the South of the Arabic Peninsula. France would have the treatment of most favored nation, along UK. The construction and enlargement of the railroad network would be assigned to French companies. The CAS holds to safeguard the property of French and UK companies. The former provinces Lebanon and Palestine, along the coastline of Syria would be given out as mandates of the League of Nations (LoN) to France and UK. The duration of the mandates will last until the rights of the minorities are fully guarantee and self government has fully evolved.
The main considerations on establishing the mandates were the deference of the rights and autonomy of the minorities and the possible establishment of a Jewish homeland in the future. The mandate of Levant would be assigned to France, which would observe the terms of the Reglement Organique Agreement of 1861 and 1864 for Lebanon. The United Kingdom is assigned the mandate of Palestine.
The CAS stated that although it respects the agreement and the administration of the mandate territories by France and the UK it will not for the time being ascend as member of the LoN. It is understand by the Three Parties Agreement of 1921 that administration of the mandates will considered the participation or voice the concerns of the CAS. Once the administration of the mandates is relinquished, they will joint the League of Nations as full members, along the CAS. The newly independent mandates would decide whether to join or not the CAS. No timeline or blueprint of a possible independence of the mandates is specified, only the obligation of France and UK to promote internal self government.
The CAS is confederation is a dissimilar union of religions (Islam, Judaism, Christianity including almost all major branches of these religions), different and cultural historical origins and tribal interests. Arabic is the mayor lingua franca, along important groups that speak Hebrew, Turkish, Kurdish, Syriac, English and French. There exist different lifestyles that range from the urban Syria and Iraq to the nomadic Bedouins of the Arabic Peninsula. Productive activities that go from the farmers of the Fertile Crescent or Levant to the nomadic shepherds of South Arabic Peninsula. Until the discovery and exploitation of oil and gas in the 1930s the economy of the Levant and Arabic Peninsula was mainly agricultural and commerce. The wealth of this energy resources would allow the construction of major infrastructure and distribution of social services to the people of the CAS.
Uncertain origins and consolidation
The Confederation left to itself would have rapidly dissolved amid tribal and regional conflicts. However is keep together under the Hashemite Dynasty that provides the rulers of Syria, Iraq, and Hejaz. Along the prestigious key post of Sharif of Mecca. The first generation had already established credentials has a unifying leadership during the Arab Revolt. They encouraged overcoming cleavage between Sunni and Shi'ite to foster common loyalty and promote pan-Arabism. In 1921-1922 Jebel Shammar, Asir and Yemen joined the confederation, keeping their internal autonomy.
The last major clash and dispute of Hashemite power was with the rulers of Nejd. The House of Al-Saud tried to control Mecca in 1925. After a decisive victory of the CAS in Mecca and the seizure of Riyadh that finished in the incorporation of the new Kingdom of Nejd to the confederation. Thanks to weapons provided by the English, the victory of the Hashemites, would establish a de facto hegemony on the decisions of the CAS. After this conflict no other regional group would try again to challenge the Hashemite. An important concession to regionalism would be the establishment of the Consultative Council as a means to consult the opinion of the states on the decisions of the confederation.
A general consensus, due to the religious zeal of the Wahhabism and the Shi'ite imams in Yemen was that no Arab Caliphate would be established. In exchange the Sharif would also have the title of Amir al-Mu'minin (Commander of the Believers). There would be no discrimination or differentiation between between Sunni and Shi'ite and all other Muslim communities, the implementation of a common Pan-Arabic citizenship would be studied. These decisions were publicized as a means to guarantee the religious freedom to Islamic branches and the rest of the religions, in private to keep down religious fanaticism against the non Islamic populations. Also as part of the agreement between Faisal and the Zionist Organization to establish Arab-Jewish cooperation in Palestine.
In 1928 slavery is officially abolished in the CAS by a resolution of the Arab Council and the internal migration controls are abolished.
The wealth of the Oil
The 1930s discovery of oil and gas fields changed the inner workings of the confederation. From a loose alliance established and kept together by the Hashemite Dynasty to a distributor of the wealth of oil and gas. One of the first decisions that shifted more power to the confederation was the monopoly it was given to assign and supervise the concessions, collect the exploitation rights and taxes and establish the relations with western oil extraction companies. The creation of the Arabian Oil and Gas Corporation (Arab OilCorp) in 1940s as an independent body of the Joint Economic Board would accelerate even more the exploration and extraction of gas and oil has it was given out the duties of geological service, administration of the production sharing agreements and the only entity in charge of running and planning the energy extraction sector.
The new income from the oil, prompted a vast plan of public works to bring water and basic services to rural zones. Health and social services where implemented by the member states thanks to their share in the Arab Welfare and Social Development Fund made from the income of the gas and oil taxes. The Industrial development in charge of the Arabian Development Corporation and the Arab Monetary Fund. Some states like Nejd would go farther and eliminate most of the personal taxes on their citizens.
Organization of the Confederation of Arab States
The CAS is a confederation, that gives its member states full autonomy in their internal affairs. The official language is Arabic. Languages that have state member's recognition are English, French and Kurdish. Only the organization of the defense and the management of foreign affairs are powers reserved by the confederation. An economic union is established with a common currency, the Arabian dinar, issued by the Arabian Monetary Agency. Each member state contributes financially to maintain the bureaucracy of the confederation. Major public works such has irrigation, land reclamation, soil conservation, railways, inter-state high-ways, postal telephone and telegraphic services would be administered and planned by a common entity. This is intended to guarantee the non discriminatory access to water and energy resources.
The city of Damascus is the headquarters of the Arab Council, the common ministries (Defense, Foreign Affairs and Common Treasury), Joint Economic Board, Joint Public Works Administration and the meetings of Ministerial Councils of the Arab States. The Arab Council is the supreme decision making organism, integrated by the rulers of the member states or their representatives. The political chiefs of the governorates participate in an advisory role. It appoints the common ministers, and part of the Joint Economic Board and Joint Public Works Administration. Since 1930 it also appoints the presidents and part of the executive committees of the Arab OilCorp, Welfare and Social Development Fund, Arabian Development Corporation, Arab Monetary Fund and Arabian Monetary Agency.
The Consultative Council established in 1926, whose members are designated by the legislatures of the member states. A reform in 1930s had half of its members elected by the legislatures of the member states and the rest designated by the Arab Council and the rulers of member states. The Supreme Court of Cassation, inaugurated in 1932, set up to arbitrate in disputes between the Confederation and its member states.
Member states governments
The member states of the CAS are either constitutional or absolute monarchies.
The constitutional monarchies follow the Iraqi-Syrian constitutional arrangement. This constitutional arrangement consists of the following points:
- The King, (Hashemite or Al Rashid dynasty) is the Head of State. He confirms laws, orders their promulgation and supervises their execution. The King is Commander-in-chief of all the armed forces. He declares war subject to the consent of the Council of Ministers. The King concludes treaties. He may not ratify them, however, until they have been approved by Parliament. He opens Parliament, adjourns, prorogues or dissolves it, in accordance with the provisions of this law. Death sentences cannot out until confirmed by the King. The King may reduce sentences or remit them by special pardon. He may also pronounce a general amnesty subject to the consent, of the Parliament. The King selects the Prime Minister, and upon the recommendation of the latter appoints Ministers and accepts their resignation from office. The King appoints the members of the Senate and accepts their resignation from office. The King, upon the proposal of the responsible Minister, appoints and dismisses all diplomatic representatives, civil officials, qadis and civil judges, and bestows military ranks. He also has the right of conferring honors and titles and similar marks of distinction. Should necessity arise, when Parliament is not sitting, for taking urgent measures for the maintenance of order and public security, or to ward off a public, danger, or for the urgent expenditure of public moneys not authorized by the budget or by special law, or for the fulfillment of treaty obligations the King as the right of issuing ordinances, with the concurrence of the Council of Ministers. Such ordinances are signed by all Ministers.
- the Prime Minister is the Head of Government. The Council of Ministers (6 to 12 ministers) undertakes the conduct of affairs of State. It assembles under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister. Ministers of State are jointly responsible to the Chamber of Deputies for affairs dealing by the various Ministries. Should the Chamber of Deputies pass a vote of no confidence in the Cabinet by a majority of members present, the Cabinet must resign. If the resolution in question relates to one Minister only, such Minister must resign.
- Legislative power is vested in Parliament and the King. Parliament is composed of an appointed Senate and an elected Chamber of Deputies. The King exercise his powers by means of Royal Decrees. They are issues upon the proposal of the responsible Minister or Ministers with the concurrence of the Prime Minister and signed by them. The Senate is appointed by the King, from among persons who have served the State and nation with distinction in the past (usually ministers, governors, high dignitaries, judges, or generals). The term of Senate is for a fixed period (usually four or five years). The Chamber of Deputies is elected for a term of four years, or sooner if dissolved by the King. The elections is conducted according to the electoral law. This electoral law is based on the principle of the secret ballot and can have quotas or safeguards for the representation non-Islamic minorities.
- The Judicature is organized in Civil, Penal, Religious and Special Courts. All judges are appointed by Royal Decree.
- The constitutions provide for a bill of rights. All male citizens over 21 years of age and that can read or write are eligible for public office and have the right to vote.
The absolute monarchies are usually organized as follows:
- The Monarch (be he King, Emir or Imam) is the Head of State and Government. He approves and passes laws, orders their promulgation and supervises their execution. He is Commander-in-chief of all the armed forces. The Monarch appoints the Prime Minister and all other Ministers.
- A Council of Ministers or Advisers, undertakes the conduct of affairs of State. It assembles under the chairmanship of the Prime Minister or the Monarch.
- Consultative Assemblies or Councils, as formal advisory body were created in 1926. They have limited powers in government, including the power to propose laws to the Monarch and cabinet, but they cannot pass or enforce laws which is a power reserved for the Monarch. All of its members are appointed by the Monarch.
The military is organized in the Arab Legion, United Arab Navy and United Arab Air Force. The chief in command is the Ministry of Defense, usually occupied by an army officer from the Hashemite states. The Arab Legion was initially financed by Britain and commanded by British officers in its first years. Its main functions besides being the armed forces of the CAS, is to keep order in the governorates and act has gendarme in the zones occupied by the Bedouins. Most of its officers received training from British Officers and in the UK. It is vastly expanded in manpower and war material since 1930s. Syria, Iraq, and Hejaz also have their own fully equipped armies (Royal Syrian Army, Royal Iraqi Army, and Royal Hejaz Army). The rest of the states have volunteer militias. The United Arab Navy and the United Arab Air Force are the only confederal sea and air forces.
The CAS is integrated by:
The political chiefs of the governorates are named by the Arab Council.