The US, Israel and Arab partners set the stage for the launch of their anti-Iran alliance
By Abdel Bari Atwan
It was no coincidence that the star of the ‘Manama Dialogue’ conference held in the Bahraini capital over the past few days was US Secretary of Defence James Mattis. He was joined by the foreign ministers of most of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries – excluding Qatar – at a meeting whose main aim was to prepare the political and intellectual groundwork for the so-called Middle East Security Alliance (MESA) – aka the ‘Arab Nato’. This alliance is to be officially launched early next year at a summit in Washington attended by the leaders of the six GCC states plus Egypt and Jordan, presided over by US President Donald Trump.
The Manama Dialogue conference was a follow-up from a military gathering held in Kuwait last month that brought together the chiefs-of-staff of the GCC states, Egypt and Jordan and Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of the US Central Command. In-depth discussions were held about the shape to be taken by this Sunni Arab ‘Nato’, whose main purpose is to confront Iran — militarily, politically and economically.
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, who has returned to the limelight after disappearing for a couple of months, also attended the Manama Dialogue. He delivered a diatribe that matched his famous speech some time ago in which he insisted that Bashar al-Assad would be kicked out of Syria, whether by peaceful or military means. The Saudi chief diplomat affirmed that there were two visions in the region: an aSaudi vision of “light”; and an Iranian vision of “darkness”, which he accused of spreading sectarianism throughout the region. He foretold the latter’s defeat, declaring “history tells us that light always wins out against the dark.”
Two main developments were revealed at this Manama gathering which could point to the direction to be taken by this new regional alliance.
— First, that the Gulf states are engaged in contacts under US auspices aimed at resolving the crisis with Qatar. Jubeir confirmed that Qatar – which he referred to in relatively positive terms – would be part of the new strategic anti-Iran coalition. He indicated that security agreements had been reached at recent discussions in Riyadh in which Qatari officials took part. This surprise revelation followed Crown Prince Muhammad Bin-Salman’s remarks at the recent investment conference in Riyadh praising Qatar’s economic performance and its potential to promote regional economic development. It seems, therefore, that as far as the Saudis are concerned, Qatar is no longer the pariah and evildoer that will soon vanish from existence, as it has been heavily portrayed since the crisis began.
— Secondly, that Israel will be the ninth partner in this Sunni Arab Nato. Recent moves to speed up normalisation – with Israeli sporting delegations travelling to Doha and Abu Dhabi and Netanyahu visiting Muscat – are an important way of setting the stage for this partnership. Israel may well be a participant at the Washington summit in January that is to launch the new alliance. Omani Foreign Minister Yousef Bin-Alawi made sure to assure the participants at the Manama Dialogue that “Israel is a state in the region and we all accept this,” and to suggest that it is time to treat Israel in the same way as any other Middle Eastern country.
We cannot agree with Bahraini Foreign Minister Khaled Bin–Ahmad Al Khalifa that such an alliance would strengthen the region’s security and stability and help its countries confront the challenges facing them, as he said in his speech at the conference. We take a different view of this Arab Nato, which is to include Washington’s Arab friends and exclude its foes, and completely bypass the Palestinian cause and disengage from it in both political and religious terms. It amounts to a declaration of sectarian war in the region and put into practice an Israeli plan to destroy Iran, in the same way, that Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen were destroyed.
The Sunni Arab ‘Nato’ is set to perform the same role played by the Gulf states and some other Arab countries in the wars on Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen. In other words, its function is to provide Arab and Islamic cover for the forthcoming region-wide American-Israeli war on Iran. That is what makes it so dangerous. There is, however, a big difference. When preparing for its previous wars, the US used to promote its Arab collaborators that it would find a solution to the Palestine Question and ensure the establishment of an independent state. Things are completely different in regard to the impending war on Iran. The quid pro quo is to liquidate the Palestinian cause in its entirety via the ‘Deal of the Century’.
Netanyahu was in Muscat the other day, and we should not be surprised if he turns up tomorrow or the day after in Manama, Abu Dhabi, Doha or Riyadh. For we are witnessing the birth of a new regional order intended to replace the previous order — represented above all by the Arab League – which has been systematically marginalised. Israel is to be the mainstay of this new dispensation and is duly being rebranded from enemy to powerful friend and ally capable of defending its new partners.
The coming four months may bear witness to the disengagement of the Gulf region from the Palestinian cause, the concept of common Arab defence, and any notion of Arab unity and shared destiny. But that will only apply to the governments, not the peoples. Time will tell.
هل انسَحبت الإمارات من اليمن فِعلًا؟ ولماذا يُشكّك الحوثيون ويُؤكّدون أنّها عمليّة إعادة تموضُع للقوّات فقط؟ وماذا قالَ الإيرانيّون للوفد الإماراتي الزائر لطِهران؟ وما هو السّر وراء عدم فتح الحوثيين للجبهة الإماراتيّة الداخليّة حتّى الآن؟