Israeli-led anti-Iran coalition a mirage
The trio of military defeats of the Arab world at the hands of the Zionist regime in the second half of the 20th century (1948, 1967, 1973) are still bitter and unforgettable events for Muslim nations, especially since the Zionist regime’s expansionism and crimes against the Palestinians still continue.
The nature of resistance against the Zionist regime, therefore, has undergone changes in the past several decades. Supported by the public opinion of the Muslim Ummah, the resistance front – from Palestinian groups, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Bashar Assad's government in Syria to resistance groups in Iraq and Yemen – has held the flag of resistance high, with the Islamic Republic of Iran serving as the primary advocate of resistance across the region. Such a broadly constituted front has arguably worked as a formidable counterweight against the Zionists, forming a tough barrier to their excesses.
Following its frustrated military entanglements with the resistance front, the Zionist regime, accompanied by the United States, has tried many ways to offset its failures. And now, it is trying to manipulate the nature of an historically Arab-Islamic confrontation.
friend and foe
With the support it receives from the White House, Tel Aviv has been seeking for years to fabricate a new target for the explosive energy prompted by the historical idealism of Arab-Muslim nations, posing Iran and the resistance front as the major enemy of the Middle Eastern states.
That explains how former US president Donald Trump conceived of the idea of Abraham Accords, which aimed to normalize the relations of some Arab countries with the Zionist regime. In parallel with the normalization plan, some measures were adopted to form a security-military coalition in the region, to which the United States’ regional allies would contribute. The measures, it’s said, aim to model a so-called “Arab NATO” after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
For many decades, Arab countries have dreamed of forming a joint Arab army, to no avail. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring events in 2011, the dream was reignited once again. According to that reincarnation of the old idea, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Jordan wanted to form a US-supported Arab NATO coalition.
Following the all but total collapse of the nuclear deal with Iran as well as the United States government’s decision to withdraw its forces from, or limit its presence in the region, the White House found itself more determined to pursue the formation of a regional coalition in order to contain and control the Islamic Republic of Iran. That’s how Tel Aviv came to creep into the region as the focal point of a would-be security-military coalition, a prelude to whose formation was the normalization of its relations with some Arab countries as well as its efforts to establish relations with several others. And that’s what led Naftali Bennett, the former prime minister of the Zionist regime, to openly suggest the formation of an Arab NATO with the participation of his regime.
Benny Gantz, Israel’s minister of war, said not long ago that the Arab countries which share concerns about Iran with the Zionist regime should form a joint coalition led by the United States. Due perhaps to the anticipation of popular opposition in Muslim countries, the still theoretical formation was rebranded as “Middle East NATO” when the prospect of Israeli contribution to it was raised.
The prospect of US President Joe Biden’s visit to Saudi Arabia, slated for July 15-16, has triggered a flurry of comments and analyses about diplomatic lobbying for an anti-Iran coalition. As part of the events organized for the visit, the heads of nine Arab states (the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan) are going to review the developments in the region in the presence of Biden.
Challenges facing the anti-Iran plan
Both the implicit and explicit purpose of such a coalition is to confront Iran and the resistance front. But there are two million-dollar questions here. Is the coalition likely to take a material form? And are the hands of the resistance front tied in dealing with it?
In regards to the former question, one should take notice of the grave challenges or obstacles that hinder its formation.
Perhaps a main challenge to the plan should be located within the Arab nations themselves. In sharp contrast to the mentalities of the heads of some Arab states, public opinion in Arab and Muslim countries are, for the part, still committed to the cause of Palestine and opposition to the Zionist regime. They, in fact, do not support their leaders in normalizing their relations with Tel Aviv. Moreover, despite a rich history of propaganda against Iran, significant parts of Arab nations have many religious and historical features in common with both Iran’s political system and its people, while they find themselves at historical and cultural odds with Israel. Such popular sentiments would only be a greater source of concern for Arab governments if and when they decide to enter into a military partnership with the Zionist regime against the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has been an ardent supporter of the Palestinian cause for the past four decades.
Arab states and nations may also be justifiably concerned in yet another vein, which stems from their worries about Iran’s retaliatory capabilities. In taking appropriate measures, the Islamic Republic is indeed not a helpless country if push comes to shove. It’s a huge risk for the Arab states, therefore, to join forces with Iran’s major adversary.
If history is any indication, the very idea of forming a coalition is yet another challenge for the Arab states. Apart from their historical failures in their wars with Israel, the formation of the [Persian] Gulf Cooperation Council left much to be desired for Arab countries as the regional agreement has failed to resolve their existing disputes. An obvious example of its failure was the crisis that unfolded in 2017, when Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as other members of the council as well as Egypt, severed relations with Qatar, another member of the council. As it happened, it was Iran that rushed to help Qatar get through the difficult time. Yet another failed effort at coalition-building was led by Saudi Arabia in its invasion of Yemen, whereby its allies one by one decided to break ranks.
Tehran’s good relations with its Arab neighbors
The variety of Iran’s relations with Arab countries raises another challenge for the formation of the coalition. Many Arab countries such as Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait have historically had warm relations with Tehran. The United Arab Emirates has recently smoothed out its relations with Iran, while Saudi Arabia intends to restore diplomatic relations with Iran. More recently, Iran’s foreign minister indicated that some efforts are underway to normalize relations with Egypt.
Even Jordan, whose king defended the formation of a Middle East NATO, recently emphasized that it wants good relations with Iran. Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi also maintained that Israel would have no place in the version of NATO his country wants to form.
In addition, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed daily recently quoted Egyptian sources as saying that the country’s top military commanders are against Cairo joining the anti-Iran military coalition. According to Egyptian sources, a major purpose of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi’s recent trip to Oman was to convey a reassuring message to Iran, indicating that Egypt is not willing to see a direct confrontation with Iran.
One needs to consider one fundamental challenge as well, namely, the tortured history that burdens relations between Arab countries and the Zionist regime. The existing hostilities cannot be conveniently or quickly bridged by Arab leaders, even if the greater animosity on the part of Arab public opinion is not taken into account. In fact, it can be argued that even the formal normalization of relations does not automatically translate into wiping the slate clean and becoming allies. As for current attempts at forming such an alliance, one should note that in the absence of any other obstacles, which is a big if, deepening relations between Arab states and the Zionist regime would take a very long time. Such reservations have led Saudi Arabia, as the leader of the Arab world, to hesitate to make any public move to normalize its relations with Israel. Another complicating factor is the fact that Arab states disagree over the appropriate extent of their respective relations with Tel Aviv.
Political instability in
Meanwhile, a significant element internal to the Zionist regime should also be taken into account, which is its continued political instability. The Bennett-Lapid coalition government recently reached the end of the road, resulting in the dissolution of the Knesset with early elections scheduled to be held in the future. In addition, Tel Aviv’s failure to contain the activities of Palestinian resistance groups, now extended deep into the occupied territories, has made the vulnerability of the regime even more evident. Some political experts interpret the anti-Iran rhetoric of Israeli authorities and their highlighting of the Arab-Zionist NATO as a psychological war to manipulate public opinion, both in Israel and across the region.
Finally, the more significant challenge to forming such a coalition against Tehran comes from within Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran has both the diplomatic potential to develop its relations with regional Arab countries, as manifested in its many initiatives over the past years to maintain regional security and cooperation and a robust defensive capability to deal with any action taken against its territorial integrity or security. Neither Iran’s hands, nor those of the resistance front are tied.
In sharp contrast to the mentalities of the heads of some Arab states, public opinion in Arab and Muslim countries are, for the most part, still committed to the cause of Palestine and opposition to the Zionist regime.