Alwaght- In 2016, the Wall Street Journal, reported that the US will support an Arabic plan to initiate “Arab NATO”, aimed at confronting what they call the growing Iran influence in the region. calls for the initiative renewed on Friday, when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hosted a meeting of top Arab diplomats in New York to push forward the plan to establish the NATO-like regional alliance.
The US State Department said in a statement that the participants-- foreign ministers from Egypt and Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar-- in the meeting had all underlined "the need to confront threats from Iran directed at the region and the United States."
Despite that fact that on official occasions Americans say that the main aim behind the Arab NATO idea is to deepen the cooperation with the Arab allies in areas like missile defense, military training, counter-terrorism, and other cases, the major drive behind the attempt is to raise a force to hamper the growing weight of the Islamic Republic of Iran in the region.
Donald Trump may boast that he accomplished all of his campaign-time promises and so he is the most successful president to date. But a look at his foreign policy track record to control Iran makes clear that he did not do much but a couple of unilateral measures like scraping the nuclear deal, signed in 2015 between Tehran and the six world powers. The fact is that Trump’s West Asia policy is running into a firm obstacle of the Iran-led Axis of Resistance. Addressing the challenge, the White House now concentrates on building an anti-Iranian consensus with economic, military, and diplomatic aspects. The Arab NATO initiative to bring the Arab allies under the umbrella of a unified bloc is also definable under this US anti-Tehran strategy.
From another aspect, encouraging the Arab partners to form their own military alliance is linked to Trump’s “America first” policy. Almost every month, Trump picks a fight against the European allies of Washington in NATO asking them to raise their share in the military alliance’s budget. The fights are part of Washington's push to cut its heavily costly commitments to the international and inter-government treaties.
During his presidential campaign speeches, Trump brazenly said that he wanted the Persian Gulf allies to pay for their protection costs. Therefore, the Arab army is, in fact, an effort by Trump to cut The US costs of securing the Arab allies.
Still, there are additional goals behind the Arab force: Expanding Iranophobia to sell more arms to the regional allies, driving out the Palestinian cause as the Muslim world’s central case, and reducing the sensitivity to the Israeli expansionism by replacing the real enemy of Arabs with the fake one.
The plan to create Arab replica of NATO is never new to the US strategy in the region. The US administrations a couple of times took shots to form similar alliances but all of them proved shaky and at the end of the road met their doom. For example, in 2015 Washington formed what was called “Reaction Force” gathering some 40,000 forces from Egypt, Jordan, North Africa, and Persian Gulf Arab states. Its command structure very closely resembled the NATO. The Persian Gulf states funded the effort. But regional tensions, and mainly the rifts among the member states, made the project a failed one. Moreover, during Trump’s last year trip to Saudi Arabia, dozens of majorly Muslim states convened in Riyadh to form what was called “Islamic NATO.” But the agreement to form it has remained just ink on the paper. To Saudi Arabia’s frustration, which is representing the US interests in the region and set to head any joint Arab force, even the anti-Yemeni military coalition which took huge money and even bribery in 2015 to form is now falling apart. Washington’s attempt to form a 200,000-troops Arab force for deployment to northern Syria also went nowhere.
The root cause of the US plans failure rests in the disputes hitting the relations of the Arab states. The crisis rocking the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council is the major one at the present time. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt, the UAE, and Bahrain, severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and imposed a blockade on the small emirate for what it called support for terrorism and teaming up with Iran against them. The crisis remains standing to date.
Following Friday's meeting with Pompeo and other regional peers, Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani said that a regional alliance envisioned by the US would not work unless the issue of the Saudi-led blockade on Doha was resolved.
"This gathering is important. But we need to address the challenges among these countries," he said, adding, “The real challenge facing the US-led alliance is to solve the [Persian] Gulf crisis."
He also complained that the Persian Gulf crisis remained at a "stalemate" and that the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council was currently in "a sort of complete paralysis."
The Qatari foreign minister further stressed that there had been "no progress" in resolving the dispute with Saudi Arabia.
But forming the alliance mainly to confront Iran is an absurd and expensive move– because Iran has never posed a threat to any of the Arab states– and itself could play as a factor endangering their security. Saudi Arabia and the UAE, both among the world’s top military spenders, are stuck in a four-year war waged against Yemen, the impoverished nation with no organized army. They will very likely find it hard to persuade the smaller states like Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman to come on board a military action against Iran as they have normal ties with the Islamic Republic.
The challenges of a military alliance on the ground are much more than they seem in theory and may remain just a plan on paper.