Nato’s Arab concerns

NATO risks compromising the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) by interfering in the politics of the Arab region. Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have joined the ICI for improved security cooperation, but Nato’s sudden comments on the Iranian nuclear programme’s supposed dangers for neighbouring Arab states is out of line.

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Published: Sat 26 Apr 2008, 8:44 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 3:54 PM

The Middle East clearly falls outside the 26-member bloc’s jurisdiction, and at a time of unprecedented regional turmoil, can do without uncalled for fear mongering.

It bears noting that Nato faces existential problems of its own as its participation in the Afghan chapter of the so-called war on terror risks splitting the alliance right through the centre. That, coupled with Russia’s successful exploitation of America-Europe sensitivities regarding taking on board Ukraine and Georgia, ought to put enough on Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer’s table to keep his concerns away from other regions.

Arab capitals appreciate what most of the West has failed to grasp. A nuclear Iran would be in nobody’s interest, but Teheran’s intention in no way betrays plans for actually making the bomb, and so far it has in no way violated the NPT. Also, however much the West distrusts the Ahmadinejad dispensation, Washington’s hatred for Teheran actually goes back to the revolution of ’79, when Khomeni’s hostage drama embarrassed the Carter administration from the House. So America’s intensified rhetoric is no surprise. It has been around since before Bush and Ahmadinejad and from the looks of things will stay till long after both fade into oblivion, a fact of the equation not lost on Middle Eastern capitals.

Nato’s sudden concern actually sends a rather chilling message at a time when Israel appears gearing up for revenge against Iran’s client Hezbollah for the embarrassment of ’06. Since the matter of an American-Israeli calculated strike against Iran’s nuclear installations has also not been ruled out yet, pressure from an alliance that has no business in the area sours the atmosphere when the region is already entangled in some of its worst problems. Iraq is living hell, Iran has uranium problems, Palestinians are facing the worst humanitarian crisis in more than half a century, Lebanon is still without a president and Syria is in a difficult tango with Israel.

Since Nato and the Arab world are in the process of getting closer, the organisation will serve everybody’s interests better by keeping its Middle East specific opinions to itself, especially since they do not exactly reflect actual on-ground developments.

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