Since the American president was elected, his many dreams were revealed. I say “dreams” because most of them are not based on a realistic vision of international politics. They are dreams that Trump believes his exceptional personality is capable of accomplishing, as he believes he is a “deal maker”.
He had a dream to end North Korea’s nuclear aspirations, he dreamt of a subordinate Iran, and a cooperative Russia. He wanted the deal of the century to pass without a hitch! In the Gulf, Trump wanted a region that agreed to serve his projects, funded him with money, soldiers and equipment.
Trump saw in the Gulf a current account that would fund his projects and the stick he used to discipline the “rogues” in the region. Just like with his other dreams, we heard a lot of noise with nothing to show for it.
Trump’s dreams seem to be hindered, as today, despite the historic summit between its president and Trump, North Korea has returned to its old practices. Meanwhile, Iran is increasing its activity in the region and is filing a suit against Washington at the ICC.
Even the “deal of the century”, which Trump expected to move forward easily with the support of those who put the moon in one of his hands and the sun in other, seems to be gone with the wind. This is due to the fact that the concerned parties are refusing to make free concessions for Israel.
Therefore, it seems that Trump has a new dream by means of which he wants to pass his previously hindered dreams. After the Helsinki summit, he aspired to have the alliance against terrorism to be the basis for rallying the Arabs and Muslims on his side in order to implement his agenda in the region. After this failed, he is now resorting to a new proposal. This time, Trump wants a Gulf NATO.
American officials are currently shuttling between the Gulf and Arab capitals in order to promote the idea of a “strategic alliance in the Middle East”. According to sources, the idea focuses on forming an alliance similar to the NATO against Iran and to some extent, Russia. It will bring together the Gulf countries and some Arab countries and will be led by the United States.
It is basically the institutionalisation of the American role in the region by bringing together Washington’s allies to one table. For Washington, this seems necessary for two reasons:
The first is that the growing differences between Washington’s allies have made it difficult for the White House to fulfil its duties in the region. How can Washington’s enemies be defeated if its allies are in constant conflict without Washington being able to resolve it?
The second is the failure of the Saudi-Emirati axis to implement the promises made to Washington to support the Trump agenda in the region. Riyadh and Abu Dhabi were unable to market the “deal of the century” to the Arabs and Iran and its proxies are still achieving victories against their opponents in Yemen and Syria.
So, policymakers in Washington think the solution is to bring everyone together at the same table, but is that possible?
The difficulty in achieving Trump’s dream lies in two obstacles:
The first obstacle is that each party has pre-conditions to join such a coalition. For the UAE and Saudi Arabia, their participation in this alliance should not affect the siege they have imposed on Qatar, and the opposite is true for Qatar.
Doha cannot participate in the coalition while four of its members continue to besiege it. Meanwhile, countries such as Jordan and Egypt won’t allow the rug to be pulled from under them in terms of Palestine, in exchange for association with this alliance. Of course everyone will say to Washington, “We are willing to participate, but….”
The second obstacle is the growing impression that Trump is not a reliable partner. Trump has proven for almost two years in the White House that he is tougher on Washington’s allies than its enemies.
He criticises the European Union, spoils the NATO summit and then meets with the North Korean president, preferring a meeting with Putin to one with his NATO counterparts. Ironically, talk of a Gulf NATO is occurring amid Trump’s continued criticism of NATO.
Allying with Trump does not seem to be an effective strategy under these circumstances. Trump’s deliberate approach to launching projects or initiatives and then backing down from them has convinced those dealing with the American administration that the best way to deal with the administration is to agree initially with the projects and the gains to be achieved in the preparation period and then put a spanner in the project’s wheel.
This alleged alliance was stillborn, and even if Trump succeeded in bringing together the rivalling parties and declaring the coalition to the media it will suffer the fate of the coalition against terrorism, which did not go beyond the stage of meetings and press statements.
In terms of the Gulf, the existence of this alliance will be the worst development in the Gulf Cooperation Council, as after the Gulf citizens hoped for a unified Gulf that is influential in the world, we are now talking about a Gulf Council headed by Trump.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the New Khaleej on 31 July 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.