Is a Middle Eastern Version of NATO Being Created?

Jordanian King Abdullah II recently announced that he would support the creation of a Middle Eastern military alliance in the mold of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  

Abdullah said to CNBC News that this alliance could potentially work with aligned countries, largely assumed to be Arab states skeptical of an ascendant Iran or Turkey. 

Such a grouping could work with like-minded countries, but the military alliance’s mission statement would need to be clear from the outset, King Abdullah II told CNBC News.

“I’d like to see more countries in the area come into that mix. I would be one of the first people that would endorse a Middle East NATO,” Abdullah said. “The mission statement has to be very, very clear. Otherwise, it confuses everybody.”

Abdullah already considers Jordan a “partner” of NATO, due to the country’s close relationship with the military alliance and its troops fighting “shoulder to shoulder” with NATO forces in the past.

According to PressTV, Jordan is a major non-NATO ally and “hosts around 3,000 US troops and its Muwaffaq Salti air base was used as a launching pad for purported counterterrorism operations by the group in the region.”

In the interview with CNBC, Abdullah cited Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine and claimed that Russia’s military action has united Middle Eastern countries.

“As well as security and military cooperation, a closer alliance in the Middle East could help to address the challenges arising from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, especially with regard to energy and commodity prices,” the Jordanian king stated.

“All of us are coming together and saying ‘how can we help each other?’ which is, I think, very unusual for the region,” he continued. “If I’m okay and you’re not, I’m going to end up paying the price. I’m hoping what you’re seeing in 2022 is this new vibe, I guess, in the region to say, ‘how can we connect with each other and work with each other?’”

Abdullah’s remarks came during a time when US President Joe Biden plans to visit the Middle East in an effort to help facilitate the normalization of relations between Arab states and Israel and bolster defense ties in the region. 

Leaders like Iranian President Ebrahim Raesi cautioned about efforts to expand NATO’s influence across the globe. Raesi blamed the US’s and NATO’s actions for the current conflict taking place in Ukraine. 

Raesi called for the Russo-Ukrainian conflict to be ended as soon as possible and even said that Iran is prepared to help bring this conflict to a close. 

As the US pivots to Asia in order to prepare for a full-fledged confrontation against China. This will leave less US military assets in the Middle East, thereby compelling Arab countries to seek greater security cooperation among themselves and with Israel to confront the challenges of a rising Turkey and a potential Iranian resurgence.  

However, the creation of a Middle Eastern NATO in a region that is already volatile could generate instability and potentially drag the US right back into a perennially unstable region.  

US policymakers would be wise to give up on trying to tinker with the Middle East’s security architecture and let countries in that region sort things out on their own. 

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