“Arab Shield 1”: The birth of an Arab NATO?

Source: Middle East Institute

Author(s): Giorgio Cafiero and Cinzia Bianco

Original Link: http://www.mei.edu/publications/arab-shield-1-birth-arab-nato

As naval, air, and ground units from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) conduct war games in western Egypt this month, joined by observers from Morocco and Lebanon, many speculate that this could represent the birth of the so-called “Arab NATO.” The military exercises, held from Nov. 3-16 and codenamed “Arab Shield 1,” are the first time the six Arab states have conducted joint war games at the same time. Despite this display of coordination, however, there are major political obstacles to establishing an Arab NATO.

The Trump administration has been pushing Washington’s closest Arab allies to create a regional security pact that it calls the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA). As the White House sees it, MESA would serve U.S. interests by strengthening pan-Arab resolve to counter Iran’s actions in the region. It would also establish a local force to fight violent extremist groups and ease the military and strategic burden on the U.S. The fact that the six Arab states brought together their armed forces just over a month after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on their governments to establish an alliance highlights the U.S.’s interest in making MESA a reality. The U.S. effort has been met with significant resistance, however, as Arab states chronically struggle with major divisions stemming from their divergent strategic priorities in the region as well as fundamentally different attitudes toward both Iran and political Islam.


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