Regional Powers Partake in Iraq Summit in Blow to ‘Arab NATO’

rouhani

April 20, 2019

Iraq’s parliamentary summit has brought together the country’s neighbors in what has been described as “a display of rare regional unity”, further sidelining a US initiative to form an “Arab NATO”.

The one-day summit, hosted by Iraq’s Parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi, brings together representatives from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, and Kuwait on Saturday.

Speaking on Friday, the young Iraqi speaker welcomed the foreign delegations, describing Baghdad as a historical center of “Arabism, Islam and peace”.

“Iraq, proud, prideful and victorious over terrorism, is honored by the presence of its neighbors in Baghdad,” he added.

His deputy, Bashir Haddad, said the summit will have a “significant” impact on cooperation related to the region’s security and stability.

He called the summit “a valuable initiative and opportunity for strategic partnerships between Iraq and its neighbors.”

“This is a positive message to all neighboring countries and the world that Iraq is determined to regain its health and return to its Arab, regional environment and assume its rightful place in the map of the balance of power,” he added.

Iran’s Parliament speaker Ali Larijani is represented by MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the former chairman of the chamber’s National Security Foreign Policy Committee.

Larijani had initially planned to take part in the summit but was unable to do so due to a conflicting work schedule, reports said.

The summit marks yet another important watershed in a recent booming of diplomatic cooperation in a region that was largely been bedeviled by bloody conflicts in recent years.

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EGYPT PULLED OUT OF U.S. EFFORTS TO FORM “ARAB NATO” TO COMBAT IRAN: REPORTS

 

Egypt Pulled Out Of U.S. Efforts To Form "Arab NATO" To Combat Iran: Reports

IMAGE: eipss-eg.org

Source

14.04.2019

Egypt pulled out of US and Saudi Arabia’s effort to form an anti-Iranian “Arab NATO,” Israeli media reported citing anonymous sources familiar with the matter.

The country told the US and other participants in the Middle East Security Alliance, or MESA ahead of a meeting on April 7th in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

One of the anonymous sources said Cairo did not send a delegation to the meeting, the latest gathering held to advance the U.S.-led effort to bind Sunni Muslim Arab allies into a security, political and economic pact to counter Shi’ite Iran.

An Arab source also said that this came as a disappointment:

“We all want Egypt to be a part of an Arab NATO,” said the source, “especially as it has the largest army of any Arab nation, and because it carries importance.”

The reasons behind the decision, according to the sources, is that Egypt doesn’t wish to harm its relations with Iran, as well as it doesn’t believe that US President Donald Trump would be elected for a second term. If Trump is gone that jeopardizes the entire “Arab NATO” idea since the next POTUS may decide not to follow through.

On April 9th, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi visited the US and met with Donald Trump. Trump said that they spoke of security issues, but the Arab NATO nor Iran were mentioned in the press conference following the meeting.

Both leaders praised the warm relations between the countries, which could presumably be spoiled if the reports of Egypt giving up efforts are true.

In addition to the US and Saudi Arabia, the MESA proposed participants include the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Jordan.

Two anonymous sources also told Al Jazeera that the project would be moving forward and that Egypt would be pressured into not revoking its membership. The project was initially proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2017, and was perpetuated by US President Donald Trump.

The aim of the Trump administration with the project is to form a a new security body comprising Sunni Middle Eastern countries that would be geared toward countering Shiite Iran’s ‘regional adventurism’. Reportedly, MESA member-states would seek deeper cooperation in the realms of missile defense, military training and counter-terrorism, while strengthening broader political and economic ties.

“It would serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, extremism and will bring stability,” a spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council asserted in reference to the potential association.

“It’s not a new project. However, its implementation is what matters,” said Qassem Qaseer, a Lebanese political analyst. He confirmed that the US has been working with Arab states for a while now to form such a body, noting that “the issue remains with the different agendas and political approach of its member of states.”

Qaseer said that the Arab countries don’t agree on more than one critical issue, pointing out that the Arab NATO is still an idea with no structure.

“They aim to pressure Iran on the ground by such initiative, although, they need to make it a reality first,” Qaseer said.

A Saudi political analyst, Sulaiman al-Oqaily, also said that there must be one strategy among the Arab nations that form the alliance, as well as a clear target in order for such an endeavor to succeed.

Al-Oqaily claimed that there must be one united Arab bloc that has agreed that the “Arab NATO” would protect the Arab world from all kind of threats and security challenges. “Its members’ motives and determinants have to be the same.”

Al-Oqaily says that the sectarianism with which Iran targets the Middle East is more dangerous than Israel.

“Iran is taking advantage of its culture and religious links to the Arab world to expand there and destroy it. Israel can’t violate the Arab society like Iran, but through its intelligence services.”

Between November 10th and 13th, 2018, Egypt hosted the Shield of the Arabs 1 military exercise, with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan.

Egyptian military spokesperson Tamer al-Rifai back then said the exercises were part of Egypt’s efforts to enhance military cooperation with other Arab countries but declined to speculate on whether they could evolve into some sort of a military alliance. 

Egypt on the other hand, appears to have stable relations with Iran currently.

Iran hailed the reports of Egypt giving up on the efforts. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qasemi was cited by the IRNA News Agency, praising the possible decision.

He said that it wasn’t yet confirmed, and Iran was examining whether it was true, but if it was confirmed it would be “welcomed.”

“Egypt is an important and powerful country both in the Arab and in the Muslim world that can play a key role in creating peace, stability and security in the West Asia region,” said Qasemi.

He said that Egypt can exercise realism to help foster unity among Muslim countries and bring them closer together.

Qasemi expressed hope that Egypt, ‘as an undeniable power of Arab world’, can carry out its historical duty in the most sensitive conditions of the region.

In addition the decision, if it were true, would help foster better relations in the region and assist in fighting terrorism, provide security and sustainable stability, and give a boost to mutual understanding and multilateral cooperation.

Qasemi also expressed Iran’s doubt that the Arab NATO endeavor would be successful, arguing that NATO was founded in Western world ‘under certain historical and geographical conditions, based on a series of certain values and necessities and even very certain commonalities’ which is not likely to be copied in the Arab world.

Egypt’s relations with Russia also appear to be on the rise. Russia is a key partner of Iran, especially in Syria.

On March 18thRussian outlet Kommersant reported that Russia had inked a $2 billion contract for the delivery of 20 fighter jets to Egypt.

The contract was signed at the end of 2018 and delivery of the aircraft, as well as weapons for the planes, will begin as early as 2020-21.

Russia’s Federal Service for Military-Technical Cooperation (FSMTC) said that no contracts for aircraft supply were signed in the second half of 2018. So the report may be false.

Regardless, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on April 9th warned that Egypt would be subject to US sanctions if it did, in fact, purchase the Russian Su-35 fighter jets.

“We have made clear that systems were to be purchased that… would require sanctions on the regime,” Pompeo told the Senate Committee on Appropriations. “We have received assurances from them, they understand that, and I am very hopeful they will decide not to move forward with that acquisition.”

Earlier, on October 17th, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also signed a strategic cooperation treaty designed to increase trade, military, and other ties between their two nations.

Putin said the talks encompassed “the whole spectrum of bilateral relations as well as key international and regional problems.”

He added that he and Sisi discussed expanding arms trade and military ties, pointing out that Russian and Egyptian paratroopers were conducting military maneuvers in Egypt.

Saudi, UAE offer Iran flood aid after welcoming IRGC ban

Source

Sat Apr 13, 2019 09:13AM [Updated: Sat Apr 13, 2019 10:05AM ]

Members of Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) are helping people clear away mud in flood-hit areas. (Photo by Fars news agency)
Members of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) are helping people clear away mud in flood-hit areas. (Photo by Fars news agency)

Saudi Arabia and the UAE have offered to help flood victims in Iran days after welcoming US blacklisting of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), which plays a central role in relief efforts.

In a statement Friday, the Saudi Red Crescent Authority and the Red Crescent Society of the UAE said that they were drawing up a joint plan to “alleviate the suffering of people affected by the devastating flash floods that recently hit Iran.”

The operation, they, added was being undertaken within the framework of “Islamic brotherhood and in solidarity” with the Iranian nation.

The agencies noted that they were discussing appropriate procedures in order to implement their initiative. There was no reaction from Iranian authorities to the offer on Saturday.

The statement came a few days after the White House labeled the IRGC a “foreign terrorist organization,” drawing rebuke from many governments.

Saudi Arabia went out of its way to welcome the hostile move along with the UAE and Israel.

The IRGC – alongside Iran’s Army, voluntary groups, and locals – has been providing relief aid to those affected in unprecedented floods which have left at least 70 people dead.

Iran has repeatedly expressed readiness to cooperate with the Persian Gulf Arab countries, but those gestures have been ignored by Saudi Arabia which has supported Washington’s belligerent policy toward Tehran, instead.

The US has frozen bank accounts of the Iranian Red Crescent Society (IRCS) as part of its unilateral sanctions against the Iranian people, making it almost impossible for foreign aid to reach the flood victims.

Under the Trump administration, the US has taken an increasingly hawkish posture toward Iran.

It has also been pushing forward a plan to establish a NATO-like regional alliance to confront Iran. Saudi Arabia and the UAE are members of the so-called “Arab NATO” envisioned by the US.

On Thursday, however, Reuters reported that Egypt had turned its back on the anti-Iran alliance.

Read more:

«Deal of Century»: An Arab NATO in the Making

By Staff, Agencies

“The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is and ancient proverb that is never outdated when it comes to politics and geostrategic policies. Given the light of the situation in the region, the “Israeli” entity is literally in its pursuit.

“Israel” is smart enough not to tarnish its hands with its dirty work against Iran and have others do that on its behalf. But this time, it’s not the United States – its best friend and long supporting ally – instead, it has been focusing on our side of the globe: the Middle East.

Not long back, the “Israeli” entity has been engaged in normalization efforts with various Arab nations among which are Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman; the same countries which are also part of a Saudi Arabian initiative called the so-called “Arab NATO” – the Middle East Strategic Alliance [MESA] – to combat Iran in the region.

The kingdom on April 8 hosted a meeting with the high-level participation of Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Jordan. According to the Saudi WAS news agency, the meeting was “an important step to launching the alliance, which aims to strengthen the security and stability of the region and the world.”

Sulaiman al-Oqaily, a Saudi political analyst, says there must be one strategy among the Arab nations that form the alliance, as well as a clear target in order for such an endeavor to succeed.

First, al-Oqaily points out that there must be one united Arab bloc that has agreed that the “Arab NATO” would protect the Arab world from all kind of threats and security challenges. “Its members’ motives and determinants have to be the same,” he says.

Al-Oqaily says that the sectarianism with which Iran targets the Middle East is more dangerous than Israel.

“Iran is taking advantage of its culture and religious links to the Arab world to expand there and destroy it,” he claims. “‘Israel’ can’t violate the Arab society like Iran, but through its intelligence services.”

He also speculates that if Iran weren’t involved in Iraq, the latter would have peace by now.

The US administration has since last year been exploring the creation of a new security body comprising Middle Eastern countries that would be geared toward countering Iran. Reportedly, MESA member-states would seek deeper cooperation in the realms of missile defense, military training and counter-terrorism, while strengthening broader political and economic ties.

“It would serve as a bulwark against Iranian aggression, terrorism, extremism and will bring stability,” a spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council alleged in reference to the potential association last year.

“It’s not a new project. However, its implementation is what matters,” says Qassem Qaseer, a Lebanese political analyst. He confirms that the US has been working with Arab states for a while now to form such a body, noting that “the issue remains with the different agendas and political approach of its member of states.”

For example, Qaseer says that the Arab countries don’t agree on more than one critical issue, pointing out that the Arab NATO is still an idea with no structure.

“They aim to pressure Iran on the ground by such initiative, although, they need to make it a reality first,” Qaseer says. It is noteworthy that the Idea of an Arab NATO coalition is one of the results of the Arab-Islamic summit hosted by Riyadh in May 2017.

Over the past year, senior American officials, including President Donald Trump’s adviser Jared Kushner and international negotiator Jason Greenblatt, have conducted shuttle diplomacy among Middle East capitals. These visits have laid the foundation for MESA, although the notion reportedly was first raised by Saudi Arabia.

Regarding the “Israeli” entity, its relations with regional Arab nations are by most accounts improving, primarily the result of a shared interest in curbing Iran.

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