Monday, October 31, 2011

America's new Middle East 'mini-Nato'

"... Exactly what the Pentagon might do with its expanded Kuwait and Gulf-based forces, should Iraq implode again at some future date or become destabilised by the unrest in Syria, is unclear. A second invasion would not command much public support, to put it mildly. If, on the other hand, the new American deployments are primarily about containing, intimidating or potentially attacking Iran, the emerging picture becomes more comprehensible, although not more reassuring.Maliki and his government maintain strong lines of communication to Tehran. The prime minister has spoken out in support of Iran's suspect nuclear programme. And he shares Iran's dual aim of keeping President Bashar al-Assad in power in Syria while keeping its Sunni population at bay. While Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other Arab states have distanced themselves from Assad, Iraq, egged on by Iran, has sought in recent months to strengthen political and trade ties with the Damascus regime.
Iran's influence in Iraq and Syria, wielded directly and indirectly through powerful proxies such as the hardline Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, may be expected to grow in the wake of the US pullout. This will not only encourage Assad to hang on; it is also likely to increase tensions between Iran and neighbouring, pro-western Gulf Co-operation Council states.
Hence the third pillar of the Pentagon's evolving strategy, as disclosed by the New York Times: a plan to develop new "security architecture" that would potentially conjoin Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman with the US in a sort of Middle East "mini-Nato". Just as Nato was created to counter the Soviet threat, so this new grouping's main aim in life would be to push back against Iran.
Specifically, it is suggested the Gulf allies would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defences. Arming all of them with compatible, US-made weapons systems would neatly serve an additional purpose: boosting American arms sales while lessening the impact of coming Pentagon budget cuts. Above all else, such a development would help compensate for the de facto loss of Iraq and reassure Israel, ..... Nobody in Washington is talking about an October surprise, mainly because October just finished. But October, 2012 may be a month to watch...."

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