کد خبر: ۸۹۲۸۳۵
تاریخ انتشار: ۲۹ فروردين ۱۳۹۸ - ۱۹:۴۲ 18 April 2019

Reuters reported recently that Egypt has pulled out of the U.S. efforts to forge the MESA, an "Arab NATO" with key Arab allies. According to the sources familiar with the decision, it would be a blow to the Trump administration's strategy to contain Iranian power.

Egyptian journalist Mostafa Hassan, however feels that the news is not correct, and it needs to be confirmed first. Also, there is no such confirmation from the US Department of State or the White House yet.

The Middle East Security Alliance (MESA), as it is officially called, is said to be modelled after the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), where the United States acts as a guarantor of peace and stability in the region. The alliance is also referred as the “Arab NATO”.

Prospective MESA member states are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Jordan.

However, it is possible that Egypt was wary of Iran lending support to the Ikhwan, if it rubbed Iran the wrong way. It is worth noting that Iran has a seat of scholarship in Maududi's writings and has influenced those including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei.

Egyptian journalist Mohamed Mansour says that it was very clear during the visit of the Egyptian President to the United States that the relations between the two countries are not in good shape. Egypt refused the recognition of the Israeli sovereignty over the occupied Golan by US and also refused previous decision of Trump to recognize occupied Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

During this visit of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the Egyptian President there were several other indicators of this tension between the two sides, including statements by US Secretary of State on the possibility of sanctions against Egypt regarding the deal of the Sukhoi 35 fighter jets according to rumours that Russia will buy oil and give Egypt some of these fighters.

Mansour adds that during this visit the Egyptian President told Trump that Egypt refuse to participate in the military alliance that US is trying to form in the Middle East to confront Iran. This coincides with Egypt’s refusal to participate in the International meeting which was held by the United States weeks ago with several countries on this subject because Egypt’s view on this matter is to refuse participation in any military or political alliance that may lead to increase in tension in the region especially when Egypt faces now internally and externally more challenges in political, economic and security sides.

Iranian analyst Diako Hosseini, who is the Director of the World Studies Program at the Center for Strategic Studies says that it is a big blow to the US campaign against Iran and should be understood as divergent geopolitical directions in the Arab world especially between Egypt and the Saudis with respect to Iran. Further he said that if the news is authentic, it would pave the way to a rapprochement between Iran and Egypt after three decades.

It is worth noting, that the Iran - Egypt rivalry predates the Islamic Republic and it was Nasser who coined the term ‘Arabian Gulf’ – instead of the real name “Persian Gulf” – when Egypt was eying the leadership of the Arab and the Muslim world.

A senior Egyptian analyst, who wished not to be named told the author that Sisi- the current President of Egypt, was the first leader to announce his readiness to establish a unified Arab rapid deployment force to deal with terrorist militias threatening Arab countries. The proposal was then welcomed by most Arab states including Saudi Arabia. Cairo hosted the Army Chiefs from across the region several times to finalize the initiative and materialize it into a military force led by Egypt. But, 48 hours ahead of the official announcement of this Arab force, Saudi Arabia withdrew from the initiative following US pressures. Shortly after that, Mohammed bin Salman came up with the Islamic NATO initiative. However, the initiative faced direct and indirect refusals by Islamic countries and one may, for instance, recall the hot debate on this issue in the Pakistani Parliament.

It was clear to many that this Islamic NATO is nothing but a Saudi military platform with agendas directed against Iran and it will drag Islamic armies into the covert and proxy wars waged by Riyadh from Yemen to Syria.

Egypt refused to be part of the US-led coalition against terrorism as it knows that the top countries in the coalition were behind sponsoring the same terror groups they claim to be fighting. This explains why dozens of countries after many years only did a little in ending Daesh, Al-Qaeda and their likes across the region.

Uncertainty on whether U.S. President Donald Trump would win a second term next year and whether a successor might ditch the initiative, also contributed to the Egyptian decision, the Arab source told Reuters. Cairo's decision is also considered as a huge blow to Trump administration’s aim to curb Iranian power.

Barbara Slavin, Director of the Future of Iran Initiative at Atlantic Council, says that she is not surprised, although the timing just after Sisi's visit to the Oval Office, is embarrassing for the Trump administration. Given that the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) is in tatters because of the Saudi - UAE boycott of Qatar, there is no solid basis for an Arab military alliance. She adds that, Egypt is wise to recuse itself from such a ‘foolish idea’. Also, Egypt has never been as hysterical about Iran as the Saudis and Emiratis.

It is worth noting here, that the prime concern for the Sisi’s administration is the Ikhwan and the affiliated terror groups in the Sinai Peninsula. Egypt believes that not enough has been done by either the Saudis or the Emiratis to counter the Ikhwan. Also, Sisi does not want to push Iran into the Qatar - Turkey - Ikhwan camp.

Aimal Faizi, the advisor to the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that from an Afghan perspective, the US-led anti-Iran security initiative is not in their interest. For them, Iran is a brotherly country and a neighbour with which they have a lot in common. Moreover, US tensions with Iran will certainly cause more instability in their region and particularly in Afghanistan.

Ben Friedman, a leading American political economist thinks that limiting of the ‘anti-Iran mania’ is a hopeful sign.

German-based Iranian analyst Adnan Tabatabai, said that he is not sure what sparked this, but Egypt doesn’t share the view of Iran held in Washington, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi. And thus, is not willing to join ‘an anti-Iran front’.

According to Ismael Alsodani, a former member of the Iraqi Army, Egypt has weighed the geopolitical conditions in the Middle East and the MESA objectives and inferred that the formation of such alliance may escalate tensions in the region and would lead to direct confrontation with Iran. Such crisis would thus be costly on the region generally and on Egypt particularly. Egypt which is already suffering through tough economic and security challenges would understand that being the strongest military power within the MESA will affect its military, economy, and security. In the past, Egypt has withdrawn from the Saudi Arabia led coalition in the Yemen conflict as it finds the coalition to be unsuccessful in winning the war so far.

In his opinion, Egypt’s exit from the MESA initiative would affect tremendously on the plans to establish the alliance and may open a window for other countries to withdraw, unless there is some diplomatic pressures or economic incentive to persuade them.

Iranian academic Hamidreza Azizi, is of the view that the issue of ‘Golan’ might have also played a role as at a time when the Arab world is trying to justify their occupation of the land, focusing just on Iran would not make much sense. Moreover, Egypt has historically been the main supporter of the idea of ‘pan-Arabism’ and ‘Arab unity’.

Iraqi human rights activist Ali Akram Bayati thinks that Egypt wants to maintain stability in the region and predicts that the US - Iran tensions will increase in the attempt to get a new nuclear deal. The sentiments of the Iraqi politicians are echoed by the Afghan politicians.

Younes Zangiabadi, Research Director at the Iranian Canadian Congress says that the Arab nations are now understanding that the US-Saudi policy of Iran’s isolations is not clearly working in practice. This also hints towards, Egypt’s security interests with the IRGC as this step follows US designation of the IRGC as an FTO. He believes that because of disagreements and the great division within the Arab League, the idea of an Arab NATO is off the table for now.

Trump walked out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) stating that Iran needs to give up its "malign activities" in the middle east before seeking greater concessions. Now with the FTO designation, not much has happened except the Trump administration wishing to escalate things with Iran and box it in the Middle East. But the US seems to have shot itself in the foot, by overlooking Iran’s geostrategic significance in the Middle East.

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