Will An “Arab NATO” Solve The Iran Problem?

The United States, led by President Donald Trump, is advocating for the creation of a political and military-based alliance to serve as an “Arab NATO “ and act as a strong military force against Iran. The alliance will include the six Gulf Arab states, Egypt, and Jordan. While the idea may seem appealing to the United States, which has become increasingly supportive of Saudi Arabia in the past couple, the alliance will most likely lead to further tensions in the region.

The alliance will most likely be led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the strongest countries in the Arabic Gulf in terms of military capacity. The countries will be cooperating with the Trump on taming Iran, which they perceive as having “destabilized the region”, according to Al-Jazeera. The alliance will most likely focus on enhancing these countries military power, specifically in areas of countering terrorism, missile defense, and military training.

On its part, The White House has confirmed that talks have started to discuss the basis of the alliance with its “regional partners” and the process is already several months along, according to Reuters. The Gulf News has reported that the alliance, which may be named “the Middle East Strategic Alliance,” will be discussed at a scheduled summit in Washington during the month of October. Saudi Arabia is optimistic about the political alliance, stating that the country has suggested the idea during President Trump’s recent visit to the kingdom. One of the key goals of the alliance, according to Al-Jazeera is “setting up a regional anti-missile defense shield” which has been previously discussed with no outcome “as well as training to upgrade the countries’ militaries.”

However, if the alliance is to succeed then the countries involved need to move past rifts that have troubled their relationships in the past. For the last year, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and several other Arab countries have isolated Qatar financially and economically. While the Trump administration has been guaranteed by both Saudi Arabia and Qatar that these regional disputes will not factor in the alliance planning, it does seem contradictory these countries are cooperating with each other with the United States’ presence but unwilling to solve a dispute which has caused hardships to both nation’s citizens. This is the case especially with Qatari citizens living in Saudi Arabia who were given a fourteen days notice to evacuate Saudi Arabia. Some of the evacuated families had lived and worked in the nation for decades; for those with children, Saudi Arabia was all they knew. On the other hand, Iran has stated via one of its senior officials to Reuters that “under the pretext of securing stability in the Middle East, Americans and their regional allies are fomenting tension in the region.”

Iran has been at odds with the U.S. for decades. However, under the Trump administration, the animosity has only increased as a result of the 2015 international nuclear deal. Iran is also heavily involved in destabilizing region by allegedly supporting Al-Houthis in Yemen, as well as influencing the Syrian Civil War. However, so is Saudi Arabia. In fact, much of the region’s internal conflicts, including both the Syrian and Yemeni civil wars have been negatively impacted by the intense rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran as the region’s main hegemons.

For the U.S. to expand its alliance with Saudi Arabia, and formerly support it militarily is not a viable option when taken into consideration Saudi Arabia’s dark record of human rights violations. The expansion of military structures in the Middle East, especially in countries that repress human countries, is bound to lead to a devastating loss of civilians lives. The Intercept reported that Saudi Arabia committed more than 16,000 strikes in Yemen, which allegedly targeted civilians. The country is also under scrutiny for the recent crackdown on female activists in the last couple of months, the New York Times reports. With all these issues at hand, the remaining support of the United States to Saudi Arabia is problematic, and the alliance is a step in the wrong direction.