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    Saudis Reportedly Invite Russia to Work With 'Arab NATO'

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    Saudi Arabia's Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammad bin Salman is likely to have invited Russia to work with the emerging Saudi-led military alliance in the Middle East during his visit to Moscow, political analyst Gevorg Mirzayan wrote for Sputnik.

    "It is an open secret that Riyadh is trying to set up a regional bloc to counter Iran, if not undermine its influence in the entire Middle East. As part of this process, Saudi Arabia has employed Donald Trump by offering him a trade and investment project worth $350 billion. The Saudis are also promoting the idea of creating an 'Arab NATO.' Apparently, Prince Mohammad discussed Russia's participation in this project," the analyst said.

    Mirzayan, Associate Professor at the Department of Political Sciences of Finance University under the Russian government, pointed out that Russia seems to be lukewarm about this idea.

    "Firstly, the Kremlin does not want to engage in any confrontation with Iran. Russia might not like some aspects of Iran's regional policy, for instance Tehran's stance on Israel, but the bilateral relationship has not been plagued by any major challenges. This comes in contrast to Moscow's relations with Riyadh that has provided assistance to terrorist groups. This is the second reason why the Kremlin is skeptical about joint strategic projects with partners like Saudi Arabia. Russian experts think that the reliability of Saudi partners is minimal," the analyst explained.

    In Mirzayan's view, Riyadh would make another attempt to convince Moscow to cooperate with "Arab NATO," if it is established, during King Salman's upcoming visit to Russia. 

    Earlier this year, reports emerged indicating that the Trump administration was in talks with its key allies in the Middle East, including Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to create a regional military alliance to ostensibly counter Iran's influence.

    The new coalition, if created, is expected to adopt a collective response clause, mimicking NATO's Article 5. The bloc would also share intelligence with Israel. However, neither Washington, nor Tel Aviv would become its formal members.

    Mirzayan further said that Russia is unlikely to change its stance on the potential military alliance because the country is uniquely positioned to serve as a mediator in the Middle East since it has working relations with all regional stakeholders, does not intend to redraw existing borders and does not aspire to become a regional leader. In particular, Russia could help Saudi Arabia handle some of the crises Riyadh has been involved in, including the war in Yemen.

    "As it happens, Riyadh needs Moscow more that Moscow needs Riyadh at the moment," the analyst concluded.

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    military alliance, Iran, Russia, Middle East, Saudi Arabia
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