Reuters: Khashoggi's death increases the complexities of "Arab NATO"
The killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at his consulate in Istanbul last month has further complicated the plan to form an Arab alliance against Iran, which Saudi Arabia had proposed last year, a special investigation revealed.
According to private US sources, the plan to form the coalition is now facing new complications specifically related to the ongoing investigations into Khashoggi's death and the impact on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The US coordinator for the Middle East Strategic Alliance, Anthony Zinni, said that the initiative to form the alliance is moving forward, but the impact of the killing of the Saudi journalist is not clear, stressing that progress in this regard depends on the results of investigations in the case.
"I do not know yet how this will affect the process; we are waiting for the final investigation and the decisions, and I think there may be a wait for the investigation to complete before we consider moving forward," Zinni told Reuters.
The "Middle East Strategic Alliance" seeks to form a security, political and economic community in which Sunni-led and US-led countries will engage in a bid to confront Iran.
The blockade imposed by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain on Qatar is an obstacle to the establishment of this alliance proposed by Saudi Arabia, while not supported by other Arab countries with good relations with Iran.
A January summit in the United States is set to bring US President Donald Trump and Arab leaders to sign a preliminary deal on the alliance, but US and Gulf diplomats told Reuters the meeting was now uncertain, noting it had already been postponed several times.
One source said Khashoggi's death raised "a whole range of problems" that must be resolved before the alliance formation plan, which is informally referred to as "Arab NATO", can be moved forward. One of these problems is how the crown prince will attend the summit without causing widespread anger, adding that "it is not easy."
Robert Malley, a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama on the Middle East, said it was difficult for the Saudi crown prince to attend the January summit "in view of what happened and how the reactions will be."
"I'm not sure if he wants to come to the United States right now," said Mali, who currently chairs the International Crisis Group on Conflict Prevention.
|Mohammed bin Salman accused of involvement in Khashoggi killing (Reuters)|
In the same vein, two White House White House documents have shown that the administration is actively seeking ways to overcome regional differences and push forward the Alliance's initiative to contain Iran and reduce Chinese and Russian influence in the region.
US Secretary of Homeland Security John Bolton wrote to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Matisse late in the summer before Khashoggi's death. "Competition is growing among our regional partners and an open competition (as in the case of Qatar) Russia and China. "
Three US officials - who asked not to be named - said there was debate within the administration over whether Washington could persuade Arab allies to set aside their differences, and that Bolton had emerged as a leading advocate of the plan.
On the other hand, a senior official in Trump's administration denied Khashoggi's death had impeded progress on the alliance, saying the coalition under establishment was "bigger than one country and a single case."
According to one White House document, the administration's plan aims to bolster Trump's "First America" strategy to reduce external military intervention, and to hold Arab allies to shoulder more of their security burdens while supporting US interests in the Middle East.
"Trump warned Saudi and other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders, as well as Egypt, that" the status quo can not continue and that the United States will not continue to invest in the security of the Middle East, "said one document before Khashoggi's death. She did not elaborate on the Trump threat or when it was issued.
The Reuters investigation included the publication of part of the contents of a strategic alliance document entitled "Overview of the concept of the Middle East Strategic Alliance," which stated that among the long-term goals of forming a formal alliance and a multilateral free trade agreement in five to seven years.
The document also included the possibility that the agreement would ultimately include Iraq, Lebanon and other countries, with the possibility of establishing formal relations with Israel and "selected European and Asian allies."