Arab NATO against Iran, an unfulfilled dream
Mehr News Agency – Washington will face defeat in the formation of a united Arab front against Iran, as Arab states are still struggling with many regional and domestic challenges and Iran will remain a strong actor in the region.
The largest military drill- land, naval, air and special forces kicked off in Egypt on Sunday with participation of the US, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Jordan, and the observers Morocco and Lebanon. The drill is held at the Mohamed Naguib Military Base in Egypt’s north-western governorate of Marsa Matrouh until November 16. The exercise, dubbed Arab Shield 1, claims to come in the framework of strengthening joint military cooperation between Egypt and Arab countries, to build the combat capabilities of the armed forces, and achieve common objectives.
This is a military campaign that has long been the subject of talks and statements from the rise of the Arab NATO. Interestingly, Qatar and Oman did not participate in this exercise, and the location of the drill, shows that Egypt, with the largest Arab army is likely to be the headquarters of the Arab NATO.
The objective of this NATO surely is not to confront the Zionist regime, since the Arab states are moving towards normalization of their relations with Tel Aviv, which has intensified recently. In fact, the US government seeks to end the step-by-step implementation of the century deal and unveil it in the latest plan to form a new security and military order in the region. Hence, the ultimate goal of this military-security organization is to confront opposition of the new order, and at the head of them lay Iran, and the Palestinian and Lebanese resistance forces.
The military exercise comes only a month after the meeting of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with the foreign ministers of Arab states in New York. Earlier, Persian Gulf military commanders held a meeting in Kuwait at the invitation of US military commanders in the region.
US President Donald Trump’s government is pursuing to launch a so-called Arabic version of the NATO coalition to confront Iran by putting subtle pressure on the Persian Gulf Arab States along with Egypt and Jordan. Of course, this coalition will be formed partly under the name of the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), but it is also known as the Arab NATO. Bahrain’s foreign minister said on Saturday at the IISS Manama Dialogue, the annual Middle East’s security summit, that the coalition would be formed by the start of the New Year, a claim that many analysts are skeptical of.
The Arab NATO is a transformed plan that was first initiated at the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), an initiative launched during NATO’s 2004 Istanbul summit. The plan was to expand NATO to the Persian Gulf region. Proposed by Ahmed al-Sabah and approved by NATO Secretary General, the NATO office was launched in Kuwait in 2011.
The plan, however, has seen a few changes since:
Removal of Turkey and Qatar, Arab NATO will continue to work independently of the NATO, Expansion of the Arab NATO from the Persian Gulf to the Red Sea, particularly to Egypt, has the US support, counters Iran’s influence in the Middle East region, and coordination of operational intelligence with Israel.
The ICC is an offer to engage in practical security cooperation activities with states throughout the Greater Middle East. The initiative offers practical cooperation with interested nations in the Greater Middle East in such areas as: The ICC counter-WMD; counterterrorism; training and education; participation in NATO exercises; promoting military interoperability; disaster preparedness and civil emergency planning; tailored advice on defense reform and civil-military relations; cooperation on border security to help prevent illicit trafficking of drugs, weapons, and people.
In fact, NATO seeks to confront new threats, including Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism, and so on, to ensure the security of regional partners, prevent the non-proliferation regime gaining access to nuclear weapons, ensure the sources of energy and its transit lines, and provide a model of regional order with regional countries except Iran and Iraq.
The plan to form a new regional coalition was supposed to reach a very large circle, and the Arab NATO was going to confront the so-called hostile regional forces, but following the crisis between Qatar and Arab states in the Persian Gulf region in June 2017, it seems the coalition cannot stand united against Iran.
Many analysts believe that formation of the coalition will be postponed to 2019, particularly now that the Saudis are grappling with Jamal Khashoggi’s murder case in their consulate in Istanbul. Perhaps the US is waiting to observe the impact of its political and economic sanctions on Iran prior to joining the regional coalition against Iran so are the Arab states in the region.
In addition, the Arab countries need more time to form this coalition, as they are struggling with many challenges in the political and military arena of the region, including Qatar’s crisis, the Yemeni War, Jamal Khashoggi’s case, and Arab differences in regional issues, especially over Palestine.
Saudi Arabia and Egypt have different interpretation of terrorism. While Saudi Arabia cooperates with the Muslim Brotherhood in Yemen and Syria, Egypt considers the Sunni Islamist organization a terrorist group. Saudi Arabia and Qatar also hold different views over the organization.
Iran’s influence in Arab countries, including Syria, Iraq and Lebanon, creates further obstacles to the formation of the coalition. According to reports, Trump is scheduled to hold a meeting in Washington, where he will announce the launch of the regional coalition.
The US has placed a number of conditions on the Arab countries, including the need to fulfill Saudi military objectives in Yemen and the withdrawal of the strategic harbor of al-Hudaydah and reconciliation with Qatar. Amidst all these, Trump is seeking an opportunity to announce the so called the “deal of the century” to resolve the issue of Palestine, and for that Arab countries need to have an integrated stance.
The other side of the deal is Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran is, too, promoting its position in the region by strengthening its strategic alliance. Thus, Washington will face defeat in the formation of a united Arab front against Iran, as Arab states are still struggling with many regional and domestic challenges and Iran will remain a strong actor in the region.