Why Trump’s ‘Arab NATO’ plan won’t curb Iran MAYSAM BEHRAVESH

Why Trump’s ‘Arab NATO’ plan won’t curb Iran

The first round of what U.S. President Donald Trump called “the most biting sanctions ever imposed” against Tehran went into effect on August 7. An even more damaging second round of U.S. sanctions is expected to take effect in November. Yet economic pressure is not the only tool the United States and its allies are using to counter Iran. In recent months, the Trump administration has been quietly working to forge a new security alliance, with the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman – as well as Egypt and Jordan, to counter what it views as aggressive Iranian expansion in the region. Tentatively known as the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) – but already nicknamed “Arab NATO” by the international press – U.S. and Arab officials say the coalition is being planned in an effort to expand cooperation on counterterrorism, missile defense and military training, partly to address the security challenges posed by Iran and its proxies. The basic concept of an Arab NATO, however, is structurally flawed, and stands little chance of success. Unlike the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which was established on the basis of shared interests and a more or less common “strategic culture,” in the face of a shared Soviet threat, the Sunni-led countries that the Trump administration expects to join the new alliance disagree on fundamental matters, including the crucial question of how best to conduct relations with Iran. While Saudi Arabia and the UAE view Tehran as their greatest enemy and are fighting a protracted war against Iran-aligned Houthis in Yemen, Kuwait and, especially, Oman have historically enjoyed peace, and periods of close cooperation, with Iran. An even greater obstacle to the formation and effective functioning of an Arab NATO is the schism pitting the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain against Qatar. That crisis began in June 2017, when Riyadh, Abu Dhabi and Manama decided to cut trade and diplomatic ties with Doha over its alleged support for terrorism and relationship with Iran.

August 17 2018