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EghtesadOnline: E gypt's reported withdrawal, fear of increased tensions with Iran and differences of opinion between Arabs and Washington have made it "impossible" to advance the US-led initiative aimed at forging an Arab alliance against Iran, says a political analyst.

In a recent interview with ISNA, Ahmad Fateminejad added that the American initiative is doomed, particularly in light of Cairo's reported decision to pull out of US President Donald Trump's plan to contain Iranian power by formin an "Arab NATO" with key Arab allies. 

According to Reuters, Egypt conveyed its decision to the United States and other participants in the proposed Middle East Strategic Alliance, or MESA, ahead of a meeting held in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, last month to discuss the issue. 

Egypt reportedly withdrew because it doubted the seriousness of the initiative, had yet to see a formal blueprint and because of the danger that the plan would increase tensions with Iran, according to Financial Tribune.

Uncertainty about whether President Trump will win a second term next year and whether a successor may ditch the initiative also contributed to the Egyptian decision, sources familiar with the matter said. 



Major Setback 

Fateminejad, who is also an expert on international affairs, maintains that the recent development dealt a blow to Trump's strategy to bind Arab allies into a security, political and economic pact to counter Iran. 

"Egypt is one of the most powerful Arab militaries and probably had to pay the least price for confronting Iran because it has no relations and no common interests with Iran," he said, adding that the US-led plan’s success is "impossible" under the current circumstances. 

Diplomatic relations between Iran and Egypt were cut in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Tehran when the government in Cairo gave sanctuary to the deposed shah, and their ties have fluctuated over the years. 

The expert noted that other participants may decide not to move ahead with the proposal for fear of heightening tensions with Tehran, which could prove detrimental to their interests.

The plan, informally referred to as "Arab NATO", was first proposed by Riyadh in 2017. In addition to the United States and Saudi Arabia, the MESA participants include the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Jordan. 

The initiative already was complicated by international outrage over the October 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, which Turkish officials and some US lawmakers have accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for masterminding it. Riyadh denies the allegation against Salman.

Other obstacles have been feuds among the Arab allies, especially a Saudi-led economic and political boycott of Qatar.



Pressure on Arabs

Trump's pressure on Arab countries regarding issues related to Palestine, Beit-ul-Moqaddas and the Golan Heights can also make the Arabs reluctant to further the initiative, Fateminejad said. 

He was referring to America's recognition of Beit-ul-Moqaddas as Israel's capital in 2017 and its recent decision to recognize “Israeli sovereignty” over Golan Heights, still considered Syrian territory under international law, in a move that potentially paves the way for Israel's annexation, in part or whole, of the West Bank. The US decisions did not sit well with Arab leaders. 

The analyst predicted that Iran will be able to withstand foreign pressure and refuse to take any steps that would exacerbate tensions with Arab governments.

"The current situation is not unprecedented, as most Arab countries had united against Iran during the [1980-88 Iraq-imposed] war. However, Iran managed to weather the storm at the time and it seems it will be able to do so today," Fateminejad concluded. 


anti-Iran US Initiative Arab Alliance