Building a NATO-GCC wall: The time is now
The GCC is facing a number of major new security concerns
The current regional transformations and those expected for the future are creating new threats to the countries of the GCC. This calls for a radical revision of the existing security alliances and their capacity to provide the GCC with the security it needs; for its own sake but also for the sake of the global economy. Some form of alliance with NATO could provide a much needed solution and the recent meeting for the consultative group of the ten year old Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) could be an important stepping stone towards that. But how would that be useful? Especially as NATO, despite it being the strongest military alliance in the globe, is itself looking for reasons to continue existing.
Need for a new security system
The GCC is facing a number of major new security concerns which predicate the need for a total refurbishment of its security system.
One major concern is the effect of the regional transformations on the intactness of the GCC. The recent “near split” between the GCC could be seen as an outcome of individual policy choices made by Qatar. However, they can also been as systemic symptoms; that is a fractured region naturally pulls some countries away from existing alliances and to make choices which threaten their formal allies. In this light we may say that what Qatar did would be expected to happen again, if not from Qatar itself then perhaps from another member of the GCC.
The intactness of the GCC can be greatly enhanced by being closer to NATOAbdullah Hamidaddin
A second major concern is the shift in American strategy in providing security to the GCC countries. It is clear that the U.S. cannot continue in its commitment to the region the way it did since the Carter Doctrine was set three decades years ago. The outcome of the less than 100% commitment has been half solutions by the U.S., which left the region in a state of disarray.
A third major trending threat is the expansion of Iranian influence in the region. This has been an ongoing process since the failed American invasion of Iraq; but is now becoming worse with the Houthi rise to power in Yemen. Though there has been no material evidence of an Iranian-Houthi alliance, yet there are enough indicators to raise security fears in the capitals of the GCC. It is too soon to assume that Iran would gain a foothold in the Bab al-Mandab strait but in issues of national security every possibility is a probability. This is not to mention Iran’s steady acceleration towards gaining nuclear armaments. This threat is compounded by the perceived American rapprochement and appeasement of Iran.
An alliance with NATO could help in all those three fronts and many others such as terrorism and piracy.
Closer to NATO
The intactness of the GCC can be greatly enhanced by being closer to NATO. The incentives of one state or another to play solo in security issues would be reduced by being part of a larger stronger security regime. The costs for playing solo would also be higher. There have been many calls to develop the collective security capabilities of the GCC and one way toward that is through a GCC alliance with NATO. NATO could be the super glue the GCC needs. Moreover there is much for the GCC to learn from the experience of NATO which went through its own inner tensions despite the existence of the USSR as a common threatening enemy.
It seems that America is less keen to intervene in the world at a time when the security threats are increasing against the GCC. The fears from a shift in American strategy towards the region can be reduced by allowing NATO to fill in the void. NATO could thus be the tool to fill the void which the U.S. is no longer able to commit to. This could actually mount to creating a security wall extending from Oman all the way up to Norway. Of course Iraq, Jordan even Israel must be at one point included in this new version of the wall of China.
All in all, a NATO-GCC security alliance is better for the GCC, for protecting the interests of NATO member countries and for global security. It has been ten years since the idea was put on the table. I hope we do not need to wait for another decade to see it happen. This is the time for it.
Abdullah Hamidaddin is a writer and commentator on religion, Middle Eastern societies and politics with a focus on Saudi Arabia and Yemen. He is currently a PhD candidate in King’s College London. He can be followed on Twitter: @amiq1
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