Does the Middle East need a new organization?

Published 31.07.2018 01:04

It is quite difficult to comment on U.S. President Donald Trump's ever-changing declarations. Just one month ago, he announced that the U.S. is determined to impose higher taxes on EU goods and then he decided suddenly to conclude a deal with the Europeans to reduce those very taxes.

EU Commission Chief Jean-Claude Juncker and Trump held talks last week in Washington, and they said they are willing to avoid an all-out trade war and work to lower tariffs, even though we are not yet near a comprehensive free trade agreement.

However, Trump's constantly changing positions reinforce doubts about the seriousness of the current American administration. It appears that the current president doesn't care about being serious, but he wants to do business by threatening everyone. As a response, other powers threaten the U.S., too. For example, the EU and Japan recently signed a comprehensive trade deal. When Trump noticed that he might lose not only the European markets, but also the Japanese one, he changed his mind and engaged in talks with Brussels.

Maybe he will understand one day that threats and sanctions are not the only way to improve the U.S.' trade relations. Following every threatening message, world leaders think about ways to reduce the U.S. dollar's power in global exchanges, to build new financial institutions or loan mechanisms excluding the U.S. Trump's threats are only pushing the targeted countries to come together, and this doesn't help the U.S.' interests at all.

A threatened country will submit to the U.S. only if it feels that there exists a bigger threat than the U.S. That's why Washington's threats toward Iran aren't working. The U.S. cannot say to the Iranians, "Submit, or I'll leave you alone, and another great power will benefit from it." It is only saying, "I'm determined to push you out of the international system." As a response, the Iranians develop closer ties with the Russians or the Chinese.

And now, Donald Trump is talking about a NATO-style military alliance in the Middle East, called the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA). We don't know yet which countries are eligible to join in such an alliance, but one can guess Saudi Arabia will be an essential part of it. It's not clear if Israel might join in, as well.

When one talks about building a security pact, the first question is "for what?" The answer is relatively easy, as theoretically speaking, every country will say it is in favor of regional peace, political stability or a joint fight against terrorism. Maybe the second question is a more critical one: "against whom?" Once you try to answer that question, one notices that military pacts are not very peaceful gatherings. It is not hard to understand that MESA is being crafted against Iran, so even to create such an alliance is a call for war.

Nevertheless, when you think of it, there is no need to build a complex alliance structure to deal with Iran militarily. One willing country will suffice to hurt Iran enough. Maybe MESA will be more "efficient" than being simply a tool of war against Iran. It may train counter-guerrilla organizations in Arab countries, who knows, maybe in order to push forward regime changes in several countries; it may shoulder other military operations in the wider region allowing the U.S. to reduce its military spending; become a threat to NATO itself; or even to one day target other great powers such a China.

It would be so much better to think about a Council of Europe-style organization for the Middle East, not a NATO-style one. However, the current U.S. administration would not endorse such an idea because a Middle Eastern version of the Council of Europe means democratization and human rights. We can only hope that MESA is not a code name for more wars in the Middle East and that Trump will change his mind once again.

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