Pan-Arabism is a movement for unification among the peoples and countries of the Arab World, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Arabian Sea. It is closely connected to Arab nationalism which asserts that the Arabs constitute a single nation. Pan-Arabism has tended to be secular and often socialist, and has strongly opposed colonialism and Western political involvement in the Arab world. Pan-Arabism is a form of cultural nationalism.

Origins and Leaders

Pan-Arabism was first pressed by Sharif Hussein ibn Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, who sought independence from the Ottoman Empire and the establishment of a unified state of Arabia. In 1915-16, the Hussein-McMahon Correspondence resulted in an agreement between the United Kingdom and the Sharif that if the Arabs successfully revolted against the Ottomans, the United Kingdom would support claims for Arab independence. In 1916, however, the Sykes-Picot Agreement between the United Kingdom and France determined that parts of the Arab Mashreq would be divided between those powers rather than forming part of an independent Arab state. When the Ottoman Empire surrendered in 1918, the United Kingdom refused to keep to the letter of its arrangements with Hussein and the two nations assumed guardianship of several newly-created states. Ultimately, Hussein became king only of Hijaz (later incorporated into Saudi Arabia) in the then less strategically valuable south.

Additionally, the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as reason to administer Palestine and the subsequent creation of the British Mandate upset pan-Arabists designs for a geographically contiguous pan-Arab state from the Arab Maghreb and Egypt to the Mashreq.

A more formalized pan-Arab ideology than that of Hussein was first espoused in the 1930s, notably by Syrian thinkers such as Constantin Zureiq, Zaki al-Arsuzi and Michel Aflaq. Aflaq and al-Arsuzi were key figures in the establishment of the Arab Ba’ath (Renaissance) Party, and the former was for long its chief ideologist, combining elements of Marxist thought with a nationalism to a considerable extent reminiscent of nineteenth century European romantic nationalism.

. As such, these groups are quite hostile to pan-Arabism.

Failed and successful attempts at Arab union

There have been several attempts to bring about a Pan-Arab state by many well known Arab leaders that ultimately resulted in failure.

The first was the Arab Federation of Iraq and Jordan in 1958. It was a confederation between cousins King Faisal II of Iraq and King Hussein of Jordan. This federation fell apart after the Iraqi Army's coup d'etat.

The United Arab Republic in 1958 was the second attempt. Formed under Nasser, it was a union between Egypt and Syria. It lasted only until 1961 when an anti-Nasserist coup in Syria led to Syria's withdrawal from the union.

Two later attempts were conducted by Libya's Muammar al-Gaddafi; these were the Federation of Arab Republics and the Arab Islamic Republic. Both failed before beginning.

Unity between Southern and Northern Yemen, though, was successful. Also, the unity of seven Arab emirates that form the UAE today stand as examples of the possibility of success of Arab unification.

The current Syrian government is, and the former government of Iraq was, led by the Ba’ath Party, which espouses pan-Arabism.


The high point of the pan-Arab movement was in the 1960s, when the movement was spearheaded by Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, but pan-Arabism was strongly hurt by the Arab defeat by Israel in the Six Day War and the inability of pan-Arabist governments to generate economic growth. By the late 1980s, pan-Arabism began to be eclipsed by Islamist ideologies. It continues however, to exert a strong influence in Arab print media and intellectual circles, particularly in the Levant.

See also

* Arab Revolt
* Nasserism
* Arab nationalism
* Arab socialism
* United Arab Republic
* Arab Federation
* Federation of Arab Republics
* Arab Islamic Republic
* Arab Maghreb Union
* Pan-Arab colors
* Pan Arab Games


External links

* [ Arab Nationalism: Mistaken Identity] by Martin Kramer

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