Arab NATO: A US plan to curb Iran, deprive China, Russia from arms market


Research assistant professor in Qatar University believes that the US plan to form Arab NATO aims not only to curb Iran but also to displace Russia and China from region’s strategic weaponry market.

The United States is quietly pushing ahead with a bid to create a new security and political alliance with six Persian Gulf Arab states, Egypt and Jordan in part to counter Iran’s expansion in the region.

The White House wants to see deeper cooperation between the countries on missile defense, military training, counterterrorism, and other issues such as strengthening regional economic and diplomatic ties.

To shed more light on the issue we reached out to Dr. Luciano Zaccara, research assistant professor in Qatar University.

Here is the full text of our interview with him:

Why is the US trying to form such an alliance?

The Trump’s administration was very clear on this regard. The new alliance would be to provide a defense framework to the mentioned states against what is considered a military threat by Iran, mainly regarding missile capabilities.  A second objective would be to reinstate the US as the main protector and military provider for the Arab states in the region, and to displace any further attempt by Russia, China or other providers that already entered the market of strategic weaponry.

Considering the differences among these Persian Gulf Arab states, to what extent you think these states will be able to form such an alliance?

A similar alliance already exists, but due to the current crisis between Qatar and the quartet led by Saudi Arabia it became meaningless. A new framework with the same actors, similar goals, and without resolving the current discrepancies among them, and moreover, including new states such as Egypt and Jordan, it would be very difficult to materialize. First of all, the October summit has not been decided yet, and it will be very unlikely to see together in the same forum Qatari, Saudis, Emiratis and Bahrainis in the current situation.

Despite all differences, if such an alliance be formed, will it be able to materialize its goals while even a bigger alliance lead by Saudi Arabia in Yemen has not been able to reach its goals after years of fighting?

It will depend on the goals. So far, there is no such a thing, just a proposal from President Trump that was received with skepticism within the Arab states context. Even the suggested summit should have a clear agenda that so far was not released, moreover since the Qatar-Saudi crisis would interfere in any attempt to materialize an alliance between states that are accusing each other in a very harsh way. For instance, Saudi Arabia and Emirates are signaling Qatar for support to Houthi rebels in Yemen that are in conflict with them. The same that is happening with the alleged Qatari support to Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in both states.

What is the best security architecture for the Persian Gulf? Is it possible to provide the security of the region without the presence of all states?

It is difficult to think in a security framework that includes all the Persian Gulf states when there is a strong distrust among them, mainly between the major actors, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and when history is showing that territorial conflicts, such as the Iran-Iraq war, or the Kuwaiti invasion by Iraq, or even the current Saudi led blockade to Qatar, are still very present in the minds of both authorities and people. But also history proves that the European Union was formed by former enemies for centuries such as Germany, France, UK or Italy, and this was the most successful integration and cooperation framework at all levels in history. Why is not possible to think about something similar in the Persian Gulf context? Definitively, all the states, including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE should participate in a framework in which common threats, challenges and opportunities can be discussed openly. But the defense is not the first aspect that can attract such common interest. In my opinion, environmental concerns, such as the sustainability of the Persian Gulf waters, common to all the states, can be an aspect in which common interests and goals may surface and multilateral agreements may be reached.

First published in our partner MNA


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