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An old saw has it that “Arab unity” is an oxymoron on par with “military intelligence.” Read not as racial essentialism but as a critique of pan-Arabism, the observation has been true in the modern era. Yet Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi’s announcement of an agreement “in principle” by the Arab League to create a joint military force may just be different. Because the Islamic State group is unlikely to be defeated by air power alone, the United States should probably welcome the step — as should Israel.

The specific politics that generated the proposal have to do with Egypt’s desire to re-establish its stature in the Arab world post-Arab Spring, and with Saudi Arabia’s desire to keep an Iranian-backed regime from gaining a foothold in Yemen.

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