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Arab NATO on the way – Middle East

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Bahrain Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalil

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubair, Bahrain's Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed bin Mubarak Al Khalifa, Oman's Deputy Prime Minister Fahad bin Mahmoud, Emir of Kuwait Sabah al-Ahmad al-Abaam al-Abaar al-Abaar al-Abaar al-Abaar bin Hamad al-Thani posing for family photography ..
(photo credit: REUTERS)

In preparation for launching the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA) – known as the "Arab NATO" – Saudi Arabia unveiled an Arab-American meeting, including Qatar, in the kingdom on April 8.

The meeting was held with a high level of participation from Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Jordan. According to the Saudi news agency VAS, the meeting was "an important step towards starting an alliance aimed at enhancing the security and stability of the region and the world".

Suleiman al-Oqayeli, a Saudi political analyst, told Media Line that there must be a strategy among the Arab nations forming the alliance, as well as a clear goal to achieve such a stance. First, al-Okieli stressed that there must be a united Arab bloc that agreed that "Arab NATO" would protect the Arab world from any threats and security challenges. "The motives and benchmarks of its members should be the same," he insisted.

Al-Okayeli explained that the sectarianism with which Iran targets the Middle East is more dangerous than Israel. "Iran has used its culture and religious ties with the Arab world to expand there and destroy it," he added, adding: "Israel cannot distort Arab society like Iran, but through the intelligence services." it was speculated that if Iran were not included in Iraq, it would have peace by now.

Since last year, the US administration has been investigating the creation of a new security body that includes Sunni countries in the Middle East that would be aimed at countering regional adventurism in Shiite Iran. Reportedly, MESA member states would seek deeper co-operation in the fields of missile defense, military training and counter-terrorism, while strengthening broader political and economic ties.

"It would serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, extremism and would bring stability," a White House National Security Council spokesman said in reference to a potential association last year.

"It's not a new project. However, its implementation is important, "said Kassem Kasser, a Lebanese political analyst. He acknowledged that the United States has been working with Arab states for some time to form such a body, noting that "the issue with the different agendas and political approach of its member states remains." Kasser, for example, told Media Line that Arab countries disagree on more than one critical issue, pointing out that Arab NATO is still an idea without structure.

"They are meant to put pressure on Iran on the ground with such an initiative, although they need to make it a reality first," Kasser added. It is noteworthy that the idea of ​​an Arab coalition for NATO is one of the outcomes of the Arab-Islamic summit that hosted Riyadh in May 2017.

Over the past year, senior US officials, including President Donald Trump's adviser Jared Kushner and international negotiator Jason Greenblatt, have conducted shuttle diplomacy among the capitals of the Middle East. Several analysts interviewed by Media Line confirmed that the visits laid the foundations for MESA, though the term was allegedly first put forward by Saudi Arabia.

In relation to Israel, its relations with regional Muslim nations have been increasing for the most part, primarily due to a common interest in preventing Iran's potential nuclear program. However, the conflict with the Palestinians remains a major, if not insurmountable, obstacle to establishing full diplomatic ties between Israel and several of its neighbors.

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