Building Building Blocks for Cooperative Security in the Middle East – Analysis – Eurasia Review
The fading hopes of a revival of the 2015 international accord that curbed Iran’s nuclear program potentially puts yet another nail in the coffin of a regional security architecture that includes rather than targets the Islamic republic.
The deal’s potential demise, coupled with America’s redefinition of its commitment to Middle East security as it focuses on rivalry with Russia and China, highlights the need for a regional security forum that would facilitate confidence-building measures, including common approaches to transnational threats such as climate change, food security, maritime security, migration and public health.
The fact that it is driven not only by economic factors such as the economic transition in the Gulf and the economic crisis in Turkey, Iran and Egypt, but also by major geopolitical powers.
China and Russia have made it clear that they will consider the possibility of greater engagement in regional security if Middle Eastern actors assume greater responsibility for managing regional conflicts, reducing tensions and defending themselves. .
Rhetoric aside, this is no different from what the United States, the provider of the Middle East’s security umbrella, is looking for in its attempts to revamp its commitment to security in the Gulf.
In addition to the emergence, albeit tentative, of a major power consensus at the macro level on a more inclusive multilateral approach, the efforts of major regional powers – Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Israel and Iran, except for enemy ties between the Jewish state and Islamic republics – to reduce tensions and ease relations, contributing to a potentially conducive environment for discussion of a broader security architecture.
The need to focus on conflict prevention and improving communication between regional rivals alongside stronger defense cooperation is evident, whether the Iran nuclear deal is revived or not, given that the war secrecy between Israel and Iran will continue no matter what.
This month, Israeli officials warned that an Israeli airstrike on Aleppo airports was a warning to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that his country’s air transport infrastructure would be at risk if he continued to allow “planes whose purpose is to encourage terrorism to land”, a reference to flights operated on behalf of the Iranian army and the Revolutionary Guards.
Even so, the Biden administration remains focused on expanding accountability for a regional security architecture that targets Iran rather than an inclusive structure that would give interest to all parties, seek to address core issues and to thwart an evolving arms race.
The administration encouraged security cooperation between Israel and the United Arab Emirates, two Arab states that established diplomatic ties with Israel two years ago, and Saudi Arabia, which changed its long-standing hostile attitude dates towards the Jewish States but refuses to formalize the relations in the absence of resolution of the Palestinian problem.
Israel’s move within a year from US Army Europe to its central command (CENTCOM) covering the Middle East facilitates coordination between regional armies. In a first, Israel took part in a US-led naval exercise this year alongside Saudi Arabia, Oman, Comoros, Djibouti, Somalia, Yemen and Pakistan, countries with which it has no diplomatic relations, as well as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
In March, senior military officers from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and Egypt met in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh to discuss the outlines of possible military cooperation.
Similarly, the United States, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are trying to create a regional air defense alliance.
In June, Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz claimed the partnership had already foiled Iranian attacks.
Similarly, the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel are working on a fleet of naval drones to monitor the waters of the Persian Gulf and ward off Iranian threats.
Additionally, CENTCOM plans to open a test facility in Saudi Arabia to develop and evaluate integrated air and missile defense capabilities.
Researcher Dalia Dassa Kaye argues that focusing on the trust-building aspects of cooperative security involving dialogue that aims to find common ground to prevent or mitigate conflict rather than collective security that seeks to counter a threat specific is a way to break the vicious cycle of the Middle East. .
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) patchwork of security structures, alliances between outside powers and individual members of the association, and inclusive regional forums demonstrate that the two approaches to security are not mutually exclusive.
The ASEAN model also suggests that, at least initially, a less centralized and institutionalized approach may be the best way to launch moves towards cooperative regional security in the Middle East.
Negotiating an agreement on the principles guiding regional conduct on the basis of exchanges between academics, experts and analysts, as well as informal and unofficial meetings of officials, could be a first step.
Certainly, Iran’s refusal to recognize Israel and its perceived goal of destroying the Jewish state is probably the main obstacle to initiating an inclusive and cooperative security process.
The carrot for Iran will have to be credible assurances that the United States, Saudi Arabia and Israel will not pursue regime change in Tehran and recognize that Iran’s security concerns are as legitimate as those of others. In the region. However, even that could prove to be a tall order, particularly if negotiations to revive the nuclear deal fail.
Nonetheless, this may be the only realistic way to express Iran’s support for militants in various Arab countries, including the Shia Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, various pro-Iranian paramilitary groups in Iraq and the Houthi rebels. in Yemen, as well as the ballistic missile program of the Islamic Republic. – the two major concerns of Israel and the Gulf States – on an agenda to which Iran is a party.
Ms. Kaye argues that “despite these serious obstacles, it is important to present a vision and a path for an inclusive and cooperative process when a political opening emerges, or when a crisis erupts on such a scale that even bitter adversaries can consider options that were previously unthinkable.