It Is Too Early To Talk About An Arab ‘Military Alliance’
Biden’s tour in the Middle East is expected to have prolonged consequences in the MENA region. It is an attempt to regain the influence the US once had in the region. Additionally, it is an attempt to boost Israel’s position in the Islamic world. Biden’s fiasco in Afghanistan, coupled with the rise of China and Russia, prompted Middle Eastern countries to reconsider their commitments to Washington. If the Ukraine war is to tell us anything, it is that oil remains an effective weapon for the Gulf. Bin Salman’s refusal to respond to Biden’s calls was just a simple message to Washington: If you fail to consider our concerns, including Iran’s nuclear program, we can place a nose around your neck.
Economically and political speaking, Biden’s visit to the Middle East has shown once again that Washington cannot wish away it is old allies, not even through a shaky deal with Iran. Politically and economically speaking, the Gulf is winning this round against Washington.
Weeks ago, Jordanian King Abdullah talked about the formation of the so-called “Arab NATO”. This, in return, has prompted a plethora of debates. The problem with such a hypothetical idea is that the military alliance will include Israel. We have doubts that this alliance if takes place, will achieve any of it is desired goals. Frankly speaking, the Arab region is facing unprecedented challenges that would make the idea of forming an Arab alliance a far-away dream. If we examine the effectiveness of the Arab League, we will probably find many pitfalls within this organization. If political alliances fail, military ones will not be an exception.
Though Arab countries are aware of Tehran’s ambitions in the region, not all of them are perceiving Iran as an imminent threat to their interests. Egypt, on the one hand, is not interested in starting a spat with a country that does not pose a threat to Cairo’s existence. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that the idea of forming an Arab NATO is not on the table. Kuwait, too, is avoiding any confrontation with Tehran at the present time.
“What about military coordination? Apart from the Saudi and Emirati forces fighting side by side in the Yemen war, the armies of the suggested coalition do not know each other and do not have similar military doctrines. It is true that a country like the UAE has done a lot to organize joint military exercises involving several states in the region. But joint exercises are not the basic building block for alliances like NATO,” Haitham El-Zobaidi, executive editor of Al Arab Publishing Group, writes.
Domestically, most of the Arab countries are already grappling with the consequences of the Coronavirus and the so-called Russian war in Ukraine. It would be too naïve to say that Egypt is ready to join an alliance against Iran, not Ethiopia for instance. All countries are facing domestic challenges that would make it too hard for them to spend their scarce resources on fighting Iran. Also, Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, will not sacrifice their prolonged allies, namely China and Russia, for the sake of the US. Months ago, the US said that China is assisting KSA in developing it is own ballistic missiles. The same goes for Emirates, which was pressured to put an end to the China facility in Abu Dhabi. Lastly, their position towards the Ukraine war, coupled with their refusal to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, says a lot about the growing mistrust in Washington’s leadership.
Also, it would be too naïve to say that Saudi Arabia will join the so-called Abraham Accord without some guarantees of significant gains for the Palestinian cause.
Finally, there is a lack of leadership in the Arab region. Military alliances will never work if political alliances are not already working out. The Arab League project is still perceived as a failed project. How can we take the Arab alliance to another level, if it fails to achieve it is desired goal in the present time? The Palestinian cause is just the tip of the iceberg.
Mending ties with Tel Aviv will be the biggest blow to our region in the long run. If the Israeli-Gulf alliance succeed in containing Iran, KSA and UAE, ironically, will be losing the only power that was able to place a nose around Tel Aviv’s neck. Once Iran is out, Israel will turn against the Arabs. Iran and Israel were once friends, too.