By Dr. Frank Musmar
On August 3, 2021, the Israeli broadcaster, Kan, reported that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett suggested to U.S. President Joe Biden the formation of a military alliance (NATO of the Middles east) that includes Israel, the Gulf States, and Jordan to confront Iran. The report confirmed by the commission’s correspondent in Washington, Gilly Cohen, “Bennett proposed, during his meeting with Biden, to establish a joint defense force along the lines of “NATO” between Israel, the Gulf States, and Jordan, to confront the Iranian threat.”
From a transactional perspective, in terms of a common need for security and economic prosperity, the Middle East is ready for relations with Israel. The Abraham Accords marked a historic turning point, especially after the United States started reducing its military footprint in the Middle East over the last decade, pivoting towards the Pacific, which created a vacuum for a new era of security arrangements in the region.
The changing security dynamics in the Middle East along with the developments of the Abraham Accord, the discovery of the Leviathan gas field, the Iranian threat, the Israeli-Emirati deal to sell 22 percent of the Tamar offshore natural gas field to the United Arab Emirates, and the military vacuum caused by the USA empower Israel to become more of a security guarantor against Iran and other regional threats.
Israel is the first country to use robots instead of soldiers on border patrol missions. It is also the first country to possess an operational anti-missile system to shoot down incoming enemy missiles. Israel is the largest exporter of drones globally, responsible for about 60% of the global market. Accordingly, Israel is the only reliable ally for the Gulf States against Iran.
The idea of a Middle East security Alliance is not new; it was announced for the first time in May 2017 as a security partnership between Gulf Cooperation Council nations, including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, with the addition of Jordan and Egypt. What is new is the Abraham Accord that opens the opportunity for Israel to join such an Alliance.
In March 2021, Israel, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain have discussed expanding cooperation in facing common enemies. An Israeli official commented that the subject is “informally discussed” with Arabs- U.S. allies. The four countries believe a nuclear Iran would be a significant threat to the Middle East. Moreover, i24 News confirmed the informal defense alliance talks as well.
In November 2021, and in preparation to take the informal talks into action, the UAE, Bahrain, Israel, and the U.S. Fifth Fleet conducted a joint five-day drill maritime exercise in the Red Sea that was explicitly geared to countering Iran’s aggressive behavior. More such activities are likely to follow. Israel’s military relations with the two countries with which it has peace agreements (Egypt and Jordan) are less public but more prolonged standing. Jordanian fighter aircraft participated in the Blue Flag exercise, though neither Amman nor Jerusalem formally confirmed Jordan’s role.
The Abraham Accords smoothed a military defense alliance in the Middle East. Since the Cold War, Israel has been a part of the U.S. European Command rather than Central Command, which stretches from Egypt to Kazakhstan. The Abraham Accords altered the geopolitical landscape and opened the doors to move Israel to Centcom. Accordingly, the U.S. announced Israel would become a part of Centcom’s area of responsibility, making it easier for the U.S. to organize joint military drills with Israel and Arab Countries, which will expedite the process of the formation of a military alliance (Middle East) of the Middles East.