NATO-like alliance could be born to combat Iran’s influence, experts contend

(File Photo: Jordan News)
AMMAN — Experts contend that a NATO-like regional military alliance could see the light, but that its sole purpose would be to combat the growing influence of Shiite-Muslim Iran in the predominantly Sunni-governed region.اضافة اعلان

His Majesty King Abdullah said he would support the formation of a Middle East military alliance, similar to the NATO, with like-minded countries. The King said Jordan boasts of a quick deployment force, which has participated in several peacekeeping missions worldwide.

Speaking in an interview with CNBC anchor and senior international correspondent Hadley Gamble in Amman on Wednesday, His Majesty also addressed regional efforts to manage the challenges brought about by the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, a receding US role in the Middle East and the need for stepping up peacemaking as a requisite for enhancing regional cooperation.

Political Science Professor Jamal Al-Shalabi told Jordan News that if a “Middle Eastern NATO” emerged, it will include Israel, as a result of the vacuum which Washington left when it turned its back on the region. “Instead, the US focused its attention on South Asia and ways to confront China and North Korea, whether on the political, military, or economic levels,” Shalabi speculated.

If it gets off the ground, the alliance will be dominated by Sunni Muslim governments facing a new enemy, Iran, and its partnership with China and Russia. “Jordan would lead this vision since it’s a country that constantly feels the threat of Iran on its northern and eastern borders,” he said.

He said Israel feels euphoric and victorious after normalizing its ties with Bahrain, UAE, Morocco, and Sudan. “This could be beneficial in the short run, but things will get complicated in the long-term, if the Jordanian-Palestinian demand is not fulfilled,” on a viable Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

“If this was not achieved, there would be no real alliance,” Shalabi said.

Political analyst Labib Kamhawi said the alliance will open the door for Israel’s participation on the one side and declare public loyalty to the US, on the other. He explained that a Middle Eastern NATO would mean that it will bear the same motives as the European NATO, whose goal is to implement US policies.

“A Middle Eastern NATO will put a new title to the deal of the century, but in a nicer way,” he said, noting that it will focus on the animosity towards Iran, while diluting the animosity towards Israel. This is done by joining ranks with Israel against a third party, Iran.

“So in this case, Israel is looked upon as a potential ally and facing the same danger as Saudi Arabia and Gulf states, which is Iran,” he said. “This will make Israel’s acceptance fit nicely into the issue of regional security.”

But he added, the issue is that “our Arab security doctrine has always focused on Israel as an enemy, so how can you come to the Jordanian soldier and tell him that your enemy is Iran, not Israel? How can you shift your security doctrine from one end to the opposite?”

“What would the Jordanian soldier say if fighting terrorism, which is one of the main targets of the alliance, would mean fighting and killing Palestinian resistance,” he asked.

He said all of these projects aim to serve Israel and its interests. But Kamhawi added that the statement by His Majesty King Abdullah could be intended to “draw negative public reaction to help him resist potential pressure from the Middle Eastern NATO”.

Military expert Omar Al-Raddad said that Jordan has prerogatives, especially considering its highly-skilled armed forces. He said the extensively trained army is experienced in managing wars and operations in different terrains.

Jordan would not mind Israel to be part of the alliance, he added. “I believe that Jordan doesn’t have a problem with Israel being part of this alliance, since the two countries have peace treaties.”

“But even Israeli statements said that this alliance is under the supervision of the US, which came in light of the US shifting its strategy that focuses on face-off with China and Russia and its withdrawal from (the Middle East) region,” he added. 

Military and strategic analyst Hisham Al-Khrisat said he envisaged the alliance to be led by Saudi Arabia.

“Its aim is to combat the Iranian desire to spread its influence and Shiite doctrine in the region,” he said. He referred to Tehran commanding 165,000 ballistic missiles of different ranges.

Iran has significant capabilities and allies in the Middle East like Hezbollah, so they can flood the region with thousands of rockets and target any US, or British ally. As a result, Middle Eastern countries should be able to counter such attacks, he said. 

“Since Iran is seeking to destabilize our national security and it is at our northern border, isn’t that enough to unite in an alliance?” he asked.

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