The Oval Room of the White House, 20 March 2018: when he receives the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Donald Trump displays a diagram of the forecast US arms sales to Saudi Arabia.

According to Reuters, the Pentagon is preparing for a summit to be held on 12 and 13 October to create a Middle East Strategic Alliance, also known by the acronym MESA) [1]. Essentially this would be an alliance of the Gulf Monarchies around Saudi Arabia, plus Egypt and Jordan.

The article presents this initiative as the US wanting to create a regional military alliance on which it would unburden the task of applying military pressure on Iran.

However this plan is coming up against several obstacles:

- the first is that Qatar is excluded – on account of its conflict (stirred up by the US) with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The same goes for Oman, which plays the role of the region’s mediator. At the same time that the United States is trying to drive forward the creation of MESA, the Pentagon is trying to expand its military base in Qatar.

- It will be difficult for the countries designated to form part of MESA to succeed in working together on an equal footing given that Saudi Arabia never accepted its small fry neighbours as its equals.

- All the states invited to form part of this military alliance are probably willing to participate if Washington guarantees the military training and the necessary military equipment. However, they will surely be less enthusiastic when a conflict arises. This is well evidenced in the case of Yemen.

The fact is that the region has changed dramatically since the times of the Cold War and the Bagdad Agreement, when that anti-Soviet military organization was under the orders of the United Kingdom and supported the Shah Mohamed Reza Pahlevi in Iran.

The establishment of a new military alliance would favour the US continuing with the sales of arms in the region without needing to trigger new wars.

In the long term, this alliance could serve as the means of putting pressure not only on the Islamic Republic of Iran but also on Turkey.

Anoosha Boralessa

[1] “Trump seeks to revive ’Arab NATO’ to confront Iran”, Yara Bayoumy, Jonathan Landay & Warren Strobel, Reuters, July 27, 2018.