Why Donald Trump's 'Arab Nato' would be a terrible mistake

Roundup
tags: Trump, Arab Nato



Rashid Khalidi is the Edward Said Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University.

There is nothing new under the sun in the Middle East, where almost everything we associate with civilization was first invented: writing, cities, agriculture, astronomy and libraries, for instance. So for anyone with knowledge of Middle Eastern history, the news that the United States is planning “an Arab Nato” seemed like déjà vu. 

Back in the 1950’s, at the height of the cold war, the US was busy putting together a similar alliance system, the Baghdad Pact, also known as Cento. But just as that alliance was meant to group together several countries of the region not only against the Soviet Union but also against Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser, the fine print reveals that there is a specific local focus to this alliance. According to one report, this is not meant to be a general Arab alliance, but rather a “unified Sunni coalition of countries” intended to counter Iran.

Such a plan is music to the ears of the absolute Sunni monarchies of the Gulf, to the arms producers who will sell them hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of advanced weapon systems (in spite of their striking incapacity to use effectively the arms they already have), and to Israel, which would like nothing more than to distract them and the rest of the world from its atrocities in Palestine by playing on their fears of Iran. 

Leaving aside the enormous difference between the power and reach of the Soviet Union in the Middle East at the height of cold war and that of Iran today, this cunning plan misses a number of important facts. 

One is that while the rulers of these despotic Gulf regimes are Sunnis, there are many in the eastern Arab world who are not. These include majorities of the populations of Iraq, Lebanon, and Bahrain, and large minorities in Yemen, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf countries. ...




comments powered by Disqus