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Bobby Ghosh

A Middle Eastern NATO? Not Gonna Happen

Countries that would make up a proposed alliance have struggled to define common security goals, never mind common foes.

Limited military.

Limited military.

Photographer: Radd Adayleh/AFP/Getty Images

It is the reddest of red herrings in the Middle East: the notion of a regional security alliance against common enemies. This idea has resurfaced ahead of President Joe Biden’s planned visit to Jeddah next month, amid reports of closer security cooperation between the US, Israel and Gulf Arab states against the threat of Iran.

Last week, Jordan’s King Abdullah II said he would support the formation of a Middle Eastern version of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. In an interview with CNBC, he added a caveat: “The mission statement has to be very, very clear. Otherwise, it confuses everybody.” The Israelis are keen on such an alliance, and the Biden administration would likely approve — not least to shield the president from criticism in Congress for being too conciliatory toward Tehran.