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The false promise of the alliance against Iran

Jan 14,2019 - Last updated at Jan 14,2019

In their attempts to check Iran, some Arab regimes have adopted a win-at-all-cost approach, an approach that could destabilise the region as a whole. Undoubtedly, Iran’s foreign policy towards the region has helped subvert its stability. Against this backdrop, some Arab countries are keen to form an alliance to contain, then roll back, Iran.

While the idea looks attractive, there are two main impediments that may lead to a colossal failure of this Strategic Alliance for the Middle East. Unsurprisingly, some Arab countries fear each other more than they fear the threat posed by Iran. Qatar, for instance, is being sieged by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. Paradoxically, Iran provides Qatar with a vital economic outlet amid an unfolding crisis that has hit the Gulf states.

Second, Israel is most likely to be part of the alliance. In fact, Israeli politicians have been preaching for the establishment of such an alliance for a long time. They try to create the impression that Iran, rather than Israel, constitutes the mortal threat in this part of the region. I do not think that this is true for a country like Jordan. Jordanians view Iran as a challenge, but not an existential threat like the one posed by Israeli policies toward the notion of the two-state solution.

From a different angle, it seems that the American administration is emboldening Arab regimes to continue with domestic policies that can only create instability in those countries. Put differently, this thoughtless approach may exacerbate the security situation in the Middle East. Turning a blind eye on human rights violations in these countries will surely be counterproductive. Therefore, cracking down on people’s rights may lead to a backlash that could further degenerate the internal security of these countries. 

A close look at inter-Arab relations and the impasse in the peace process reveals a grim picture. Besides, the American statements about forming an alliance may not change the current regional posture. Indeed, it is as if the American administration is doubling down on the same strategy that has yet to deter Iran. At best, the new alliance is an improved version of the current fragmented coalition against Iran. Will this make a difference? Hardly!

It remains to be seen how the Arab world is going to respond to such an alliance. As the war against Daesh has all but ended, Iran will be projected as the key threat that should be addressed. Will Arab public opinion pigeonhole Iran alone as the main reason for instability? How will Arab leaders justify coordinating with Israel, while the latter is still denying the Palestinians’ right to self-determination? More telling, how will the Arab regimes deal with huge segments of their people, who see no strategic rationale for an alliance that overlooks the perilous policies of Israel?

In a nutshell, the new alliance is not a novelty. In fact, it reflects the current situation, and it seems that everyone is willing to double down on the same strategy that has failed to bring Iran down to its size.

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