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Trump’s Obstacles for Forming a Coalition in the Region

Of the goals which Trump pursued after the victory in the US election was the creation of a coalition and the formation of an Arab NATO in Western Asia.  

Of the goals which Trump pursued after the victory in the US election was the creation of a coalition and the formation of an Arab NATO in Western Asia.  By adopting this policy, he sought to ensure the security of the Zionist Regime, to confront Islamic Republic of Iran, to rebuild and to strengthen the Arab-Zionist coalition against the Resistance Front, to make a balance in the region, to gain profits from arms sales and to strengthen the compromise in the region. To accomplish these, Trump made a trip to the region to attend the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit. As put by Washington’s Institute Director, Michael Singh, the objective of the trip was threefold:  enforcement and strengthening JCPOA, countering Iran’s regional activities and strengthening US regional coalitions.

At a meeting in Riyadh, Trump signed a $110-billion deal with Saudi Arabia, and in a statement which he issued, in addition to underlining the necessity of countering terrorism and condemning Iran’s actions in the region, he talked about forming an Arab NATO. This plan which had already been abandoned for some reasons, seems to have been seriously pursued by Trump again.
However, despite all these efforts, there are obstacles to realizing Trump’s goals in the region, which delay the formation of the strategic alliance that Trump pursues and the patterns of friendship and enmity in the region. The most important obstacles are as follows:
1- The Optimal Extent of Alliances: Those forming alliances must not form alliances with all potential allies without making the necessary calculations. Here the issue of “principle of extent” is of relevance according to which the scope of coalitions will be limited only to what is needed to accomplish the common goals of the participants. If actors possess enough information and knowledge, they will form a coalition that will have the minimum scope to ensure victory and success. However, if the information is inadequate, participants will form a coalition that will exceed the scope needed to accomplish its goals. The more the information is flawed, the larger the coalition will be. This fact helps to shorten the lifetime of alliances or coalitions. Arab countries have formed numerous coalitions, which have failed. Among them are the Arab League, 34-State Military Alliance against Yemen and another coalition formed in the Persian Gulf region. The geographical extent of these alliances has created imbalanced benefits in achieving the goals. The leaders did not share critical information, which was because the allies were not optimistic about the real intentions of the alliances, and sharing information that played a very important role in the life of the alliances was at its lowest level. In the case of Arab NATO, it is possible to see the imbalanced and heterogeneous  extent of this alliance. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, and even the Zionist Regime are said to be the countries which form this alliance. Sharing sensitive military and security information with these countries, which have conflicts of interests in many areas in the region, seems far-fetched. On the other hand, any kind of military and intelligence collaboration with the Zionist Regime can result in widespread dissatisfaction within the Arab countries which are members of the alliance.  This is another challenge for this alliance. Finally, it should be noted that the extent of the alliance and the conditions necessary for sharing the vital information are such that one cannot imagine a bright future for the Arab NATO.
2- Territorial and border disputes: The territorial and border disputes among the countries in the region have always been the source of many conflicts. This is because most of the borders in the Middle East have been imposed and have been determined by Western powers. Syrian Foreign Minister, Abdul Halim Khaddam, pointed out in a speech in 1980, “if we look at the map of the Arab countries, we can hardly find two countries that are not in conflict with each other.” The best example dates back to the armed conflict between Saudi Arabia and Qatar in 1992. This was because Saudi Arabia has been in conflict with Qatar over the ownership of the southeastern shores of Qatar, ownership of the Gulf of Salwah and Al-Khanfus area and the conflict between the two countries continues to this day. In addition, Saudi Arabia has a dispute with the UAE over the regions of ‘Sabkhat Matti, ‘Khawr al Udayd’  and ‘Buraimi. Apart from the Buraimi Complex which is claimed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman also have a dispute over this area. In other words, the three countries of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Oman claim ownership of this fertile area. In addition, in the history of Bahrain’s and Qatar’s political geography, there have been claims of ownership of both countries over ‘Havar’ Archipelago in the vicinity of the Qatar Peninsula. Even though these disputes came to an end to some extent, nonetheless, they have impacted bilateral relations and that is why these relationship have not improved that much.
Therefore, given the discussion so far, it is clear that territorial and border disputes between Persian Gulf countries which date back to the colonial era are still there. This is indicative of disagreement among these countries over territorial issues and if proper policy-making is not in place, this could be a major challenge for the regional security and will serve as a major barrier to the creation of alliances

3-Developments in the power structure in the region: Economic, political, areal and demographic characteristics of Saudi Arabia in the Arab world have prompted this country to seek to expand its influence in the Gulf Cooperation Council as its most significant political and security area. This is not favorable and acceptable to Qatar, Oman, the UAE and Kuwait. This is because one of the most important concerns of the countries which oppose creation of allies is that Saudi Arabia may impose its will on other members, require other members to abide by and obey it and to transform the structure of power and to become the hegemony of the region. Therefore, they are not willing to be obedient to Saudis and are reluctant to entrust their security to Saudi Arabia.
4- Developments in perceived threats: The perception that Qatar, Oman and Kuwait have of threat in the region is different from that of other members of Gulf Cooperation Council. In fact, the Saudis, in line with the United States and the Zionist Regime, perceive Iran as an important threat, and have made every attempt to create Iranophobia in the countries of the region and to try to contain Iran through their actions. However, first Qatar and then Oman and Kuwait opposed this and joined the opposition, and Pakistan has also announced its red lines for joining the coalition. In fact, Qatar fears that Saudi Arabia may seize its land for the extraction of crude oil from its underground sources. Saudi Arabia needs gas injection, and gas is abundant in Qatar. Therefore, Qatar came to the conclusion that for the purpose of creating a balance of power in the region, it should look to Iran. Therefore, Qatar believes in cooperation with Iran rather than coalition against it, which is at odds with what Saudis think. This, in turn, can make the alliance, of which Saudi Arabia is the most significant pillar, very fragile.
5- Collective identity: In the alliances formed in the West, the first factor which consolidates the alliances is the collective identity which Western governments have defined for themselves. Many analysts are of the opinion that this collective identity has not yet been formed in Western Asia. In addition, the formation of collective identity among countries in a region primarily requires governments which have successfully undergone the process of government- and nation-building in a similar fashion. However, in the West Asian region, the formation of a national government has been the result of foreign intervention, and they have failed to strike a relationship between traditional and modern values. Hence, instead of trying to have a shared destiny and mutual understanding of one another, which are the most important factors contributing to the formation of collective identity, they are busy competing with each other. That is, the demands of the Arab governments in the region are not based on the wishes of the nations; rather they are based on the needs and interests of the tribes ruling the country, which brings about the instability of the interests. Instability of interests undermines long-term planning, which, in turn, undermines the future of any long-term partnership at any levels.
6- The emergence of an ideological rift among members: One of the most important barriers to the formation of a coalition is the ideological rift among the members. Ideologically speaking, Qatar and Saudi Arabia have two rather different perspectives on Sunnis, each trying to spread its own interpretation in the Arab and Islamic countries. For instance, the Saudis propagate the Wahhabi ideology, presenting a strict interpretation of Islamic lifestyle, while the Qatari’s interpretation is consistent with the Muslim Brotherhood’s interpretation of Islam, and by rejecting violence in Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabism, they provide a more liberal interpretation, which is more consistent with the principles of democracy and very much different from Saudi Arabia’s ideological perspective. In addition, Qatar’s support for the people suffering in Gaza,  Qatar’s recognition of Iran’s role in stabilizing the region and providing security, undertaking some reforms for foreign workers in Qatar, Emir of Qatar’s satisfaction with the nuclear deal with Iran and his requesting international organizations to put more pressure on the Zionist Regime in support of the Palestinians have provoked the opposition from some countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and this has created challenges for these countries’ coming together.7
7-Trust in a colonial power: Forming a partnership between a government and a dominant power is tantamount to trusting that colonial power as a benevolent government. However, many countries have serious doubts about US benevolence in the region, and are not willing to become the playthings of US policy. In fact, these countries believe that by adopting the policy of “Responsibility Disclaim”, the US is attempting to impose the costs of creating balance on others and just reap the benefits. In other words, the United States is trying to force other powers to control and contain the aggressive power, while it remains on the sidelines.

8- Cost-Benefit Analysis: Membership in an alliance reduces the autonomy of member states. This is because their membership means commitment to certain actions in the event of specific events, and in addition to increasing the cost of arms purchases, it involves some costs for the domestic economy. Therefore, when it comes to deciding whether to join an alliance or not, most countries try to do a cost-benefit analysis; that is, in the event of membership in alliances, what they gain and what they lose. If fact, what is of main import is the proportion of the ultimate desirability of membership in alliances to the ultimate desirability of autonomy. Consideration of cost-benefit analysis leads to the fact that proportionate to the benefits which countries could reap, they pay for the alliances. If the isolation of the Islamic Republic of Iran is to be pursued, definitely the amount of payment which member countries must make emanates from their perception of threat. That is, a certain country may have to make most of the payment, which could seriously undermine the foundations of an alliance. This instance could be seen in the difference of opinions between the US and other members of NATO.

9- Multiplicity of Actors: The multiplicity of actors is also one of the factors threatening an alliance. The more the governments distance themselves from the wills of the nations and the less the people are involved in decision-making, the more noticeable this factor will be. The multiplicity of actors present in an alliance makes it less likely to predict the future outcomes of decisions, undermines the ability to predict the policies of the allied countries and reduces the predictability of the developments, leading to multiplicity of demands and conflicts of interests in a region.
In fact, the flood of money and arms and the assistance provided by the United States for key players has had a strong impact on the Middle East. By doing this, the United States has raised the overall level of military capability in the region, which has mainly been done through the transfer of arms and, in some cases, by sending its forces. The US has changed the distribution of regional power (explicitly in favor of the Zionist Regime). In many countries, the US has maintained authoritarian regimes and, in some cases, it has transformed coalitions. Despite all these, US intervention has not led to the containment of the West Asian region and in the formation of strong security-political dynamisms in the region, it has been on the sidelines and in the formation of patterns of friendships and enmity which move the security system in the region, it has not been involved that much.  This is due to the fact that even without the intervention of the world powers, there is no doubt that the serious conflicts in West Asian region will be continuing, and even the US support can not overcome these obstacles.
Therefore, given the existing realities, extensive divides among members of Gulf Cooperation Council, the lack of a specific security mechanism, the absence of an identity-forming factor, the ideological rifts among countries and the lack of a proper understanding of the bases of the coalition, it can be concluded that all these factors could lead to the failure of the idea of forming an Arab alliance from within.

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