Reports have circulated that the Trump Administration is toying with the idea of a "Middle East Strategic Alliance", abbreviated by the media as MESA, to function as a so-called "Arab NATO" against Iran. The plan is to supposedly join the GCC countries with Jordan and Egypt in a new military alliance, but questions of redundancy have arisen because those two aforementioned states are already very close GCC partners as it is and were previously rumored to be mulling membership in that very same association. It's therefore unclear whether MESA will be a separate entity from the GCC or just a rebranding of the bloc following its possible formal expansion beyond the Gulf.
There was some earlier talk about Israel playing a low-key supportive role in this alliance through the provisioning of intelligence and other indirect forms of assistance, but that might be off the table after the uproar that transpired after Trump's unilateral recognition of the entirety of Jerusalem as its capital and the recent passing of Israeli legislation declaring it to be a "Jewish nation-state". Furthermore, the Trump Administration plans to unveil the so-called "deal of the century" later this year for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that preliminary reports suggest might be biased in Tel Aviv's favor, therefore making it more politically difficult than ever before for the GCC to openly cooperate with Israel.
The obvious stumbling block to MESA's formation is the Gulf Cold War between Qatar and its nominal GCC partners, but a Reuters' article on the issue quotes two sources who claim that it won't be a serious problem. The outlet also analyzed that the bloc's members all have an interest in the Syrian & Yemeni conflicts as well as in ensuring the security of Red Sea shipping, but all three potential zones of military operations are rapidly shrinking as concerted efforts are being made to resolve these issues, making one wonder what relevance MESA would have once those flashpoints stabilize. One possible answer could be that its members would build a US-backed missile defense shield against Iran just like some of the Central & Eastern European NATO members are doing against Russia.
That scenario would make MESA much more enduringly impactful in shaping the regional security environment, but it could also risk provoking Iran which might fear that its only credible deterrent to a multilateral military attack against it is being neutralized before its leadership's eyes.
Andrew Korybko is joined by Khaled Al-Kassimi, IR doctoral candidate and Near East political commentator, and Sherry Amanpour, former Iranian diplomat who was part of the cadre that facilitated the return of the Ayatollah Khomeini to Iran after the Shah's fall in 1979, but who later declined to work with the Islamic Republic and has lived in the US ever since.
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