An Arab “NATO” with Nuclear Weapons?

International Conference on “NATO and Gulf Countries: Facing ComSaudi Emir Turki al-Faisal, director of the King Faisal Center for Islamic Research, has called on the Gulf Cooperation Council to create a united “Gulf” force, which as part of an economic union he says should be like the EU, would be an Arab version of NATO.

He also said that if efforts to persuade Iran from abandoning its nuclear program fail, Saudi Arabia should be able to obtain nuclear weapons.

This is a serious challenge to the USA, which has been struggling since the removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq, to contain Iran and re-establish its influence in the Middle East. The proposal comes in the wake of considerable US hesitation and contradiction over imposing the Libyan no-fly zone, resolved by decisive action by France and the UK.

The Emir’s proposal puts Saudi Arabia into the same position that the USA holds within the European NATO alliance. It would seem likely that considerable US support for such an alliance would be required; but the political cohesion it could achieve between Middle East states opposed to Iran make it unlikely that the USA could do much apart from go along with whatever is proposed.

This however ignores the influence of Israel, which is unlikely to be happy about the alliance, and certainly not if it had nuclear weapons. The USA is therefore highly unlikely to support this proposal – even though Israel apart, it could solve some of the regions problems.

But for the USA, the prospect of nuclear confrontation in the Middle East is its most serious concern – anticipating the day Iran succeeds in developing nuclear weapons, and the likely Israeli nuclear response. Amid all the revolution and uncertainty of the Middle East, Iran will still at some point have to be confronted. I don’t suppose the USA will wish to have to deal with an Arab NATO, as well as nuclear Israel, when it finally decides to do something.

Emir Al-Faisal said other nations must be prevented from forcing their agendas on Saudi Arabia to weaken its military power. Al-Watan reported on March 22 that the Emir was calling for a conference in Abu Dhabi to discuss making the Gulf Cooperation Council more like the EU, and create a united “Gulf” Army.

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