A so-called "Middle East NATO" may be announced during US President Joe Biden's visit to the region. Although the idea is unlikely, it could happen. Indeed, the foundation stone may already have been laid by some countries, including Israel, the US and the UAE. However, rather than going public and announcing this new alliance, it looks more likely that it will be postponed due to the reservations by some Arab parties about announcing it at this time. According to media outlets, Saudi Arabia is one of them.
What I would like to say is that agreement on such a regional alliance has been reached and that a first reading of its constitution has been made. The reservations relate in part to the relationship with Iran, as well as concerns about Arab and Islamic public opinion. These will be dealt with in due course thanks to undeclared cooperation and a patient wait for the right opportunity.
I back up my claims by citing the public praise that Benjamin Netanyahu declared before Biden's visit to occupied Palestine. The former Israeli Prime Minister saluted Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman for his positive role in the Abraham Accords agreements between the occupation state and four Arab countries. Netanyahu would not have said this openly without a green light from the other side, but why say it now? It looks as if he wants to support Bin Salman during Biden's visit to Saudi Arabia, and Netanyahu knows that he will receive a good pay off later.
Biden begins his visit with the Israeli occupation state, as Israel comes first for White House policymakers; Saudi Arabia comes second, and the other countries come third. Hence, it can be said that the order of states to visit is based on their importance to the White House. Yes, the Biden administration needs Gulf oil and Saudi Arabia, but its need for Israel is greater than oil. Moreover, it can be said that the key to the region is now in the hands of Israel, especially on issues such as Iran.
A number of controversial questions are being posed by those analysing Biden's visit and the "Middle East NATO": do the Arab states need such an alliance? If so, why do they need Israel to be part of it? Is the existing joint Arab defence framework so useless that it must be replaced by this new regional "NATO"? Is the framework of the Arab League no longer sufficient and useful?
In my view, the Arabs do not need a new framework that includes Israel, an occupier of Arab land. They need to activate the existing Arab frameworks, settle their problems with regional countries, and then pay attention to economic issues and development.
This article first appeared in Arabic in Felesteen on 13 July 2022
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.