Saudi Arabia Cannot Establish an Arab NATO

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ja'far Qannadbashi
Expert on the Middle East and Arab world Issues

Ja'far Qannadbashi is an expert on the Middle East and the Arab world who believes that the proposed security agreement for the union of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is sign of the failure of Bahraini government in muffling its people’s protests. If the agreement is signed, he says, it will further intensify popular protests inside the country. The expert believes that the agreement will cause the Saudi military to protest to Riyadh’s foreign policy approaches sooner or later. Qannadbashi also argues that there is no possibility for the establishment of an Arab NATO following possible conclusion of the security pact between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

Q: To begin with, what are the main reasons behind vehement protests by the Iranian lawmakers to proposed security pact between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain?

A: One reason behind these protests is the Iranian MP’s support for the rights of Bahraini people. The proposal for the union between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia has totally ignored the rights of Bahraini people. The right to self-determination is more important than the right to have pure water and healthy food.

The second reason is that the agreement creates changes in regional equations and disturbs the balance of power in the region. Any agreement which will disturb the balance of regional power should be reached through a general consensus. The third reason is that the union has been basically proposed the pact as a reaction to Iran and this is the most important reason why Iran objects to the agreement.

Q: The text of the agreement has considered Bahrain an independent state, but Majlis deputies have noted in their protests that it compromises sovereignty of Bahrain.

A: Early reports on the agreement, which were published in winter, were about annexation and merger. They even said that Bahrain’s Al Khalifa rulers were trying to scare the people of Bahrain by raising the idea of merger and tell them if they did not ended their protests they would go under the yoke of Saudi Arabia.

Naturally, in any case of merger, the sides claim that independence of the merged state will remain intact. A case to the point is the strategic partnership agreement between Afghanistan and the United States in which there are frequent references to the fact that Afghanistan’s independence should not be ignored; why? Because that agreement practically violates the rights of the Afghan people, and to make up for this shortfall, the Americans have done their best in the text of the agreement to show that the rights of the Afghan people and nation will not be violated by the United States.

Emphasis on the independence of Bahrain in the text of the security agreement between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is another case. That agreement goes far beyond the unity of the two countries, a practical sign of which is the ongoing presence of the Saudi military in Bahrain. Therefore, what our Majlis deputies say about the agreement is accurate. However, the union between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will go ahead in stages.

Other contemporary instances of union between countries, either between two parts of Germany, or Vietnam, or Yemen, occurred between countries which were previously a single state and were then divided for various reasons. There has been no other case in the world when two totally separate countries have become united. Countries lacking cultural and historical commonalities have become separated, but they have never been never united before.

Q: From the viewpoint of the Islamic Republic, this agreement, in view of its security nature, will actually legalize suppression of Bahraini people’s protests by Saudi Arabia.

A: Yes. This is one reason why we are opposed to it. The important issue, however, is that the agreement is even to the detriment of Saudi Arabia. It shows that Al Khalifa has failed in stopping the revolution of Bahraini people and is now forced to sign such an agreement with Saudi Arabia. This will spell the doom for Bahrain’s regime.

Q: How this intervention will possibly mean the end of Bahrain’s regime and how it may hurt Saudi Arabia if Riyadh practically succeeds to prevent the fall of Al Khalifa?

A: This agreement has been signed in reaction to internal problems of Bahrain by which a political system has clearly owned up to its inability to manage its social problems and has asked another country to suppress its people.

Q: How this agreement may harm Saudi Arabia?

A: Saudi Arabia does not want Bahraini people’s revolution to triumph because it would be against the interests of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabian officials should actually tell Bahraini officials that they are rulers of an independent country and an embankment to protect Saudi Arabia. That is, they should avoid of direct intervention in Bahrain’s affairs.

The Americans try to find allies for them and they usually do not take direct part in regional issues. We also do that and, for example, introduce Hamas as an independent Palestinian state. By doing so, Saudi Arabia has officially announced that Bahrain is dependent on Saudi Arabia and this will cause rifts among various groups of Sunni Bahrainis.

On the other hand, by doing so, Saudi Arabia has added the Shia population of Bahrain to its own Shias. There are Shia groups in eastern part of Saudi Arabia that have problems with the central government. By signing this agreement, Saudi Arabia will connect Bahraini Shias to its own Shias in the eastern parts which are also major areas of unrest in Saudi Arabia. This will be evidently and practically to detriment of Saudi Arabia. This is a very naïve thing for Saudi Arabia do to.

In addition, other member states of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC] are pessimistic toward the “big brother” and are in permanent fear of being devoured by Saudi Arabia. A union between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia will further increase pessimism of the (P)GCC member states toward Riyadh.

Apart from this, the (P)GCC was originally supposed to be a defensive council. The council came into being exactly four months after victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran with defensive goals in mind. Therefore, its economic and cultural aspects have been insignificant in comparison to its defensive aspect.

The agreement between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain is clear admission by Bahraini government that the (P)GCC has had no defensive functions for that country. Changing the name of the council to union will not help this problem in any way.

All member states of the (P)GCC have already signed defense pacts with the Western countries in order to promote their defense and security indices. The agreement between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain will in fact confirm that the (P)GCC has been totally useless and its members are now forced to replace it with a union.

Q: Didn’t the (P)GCC try to provide military support to Kuwait during the first US invasion of Iraq in 1990?

A: Saddam Hussein occupied Kuwait supported by financial assistance of member states of the council. When Saddam attacked Iran, members of the council purchased about 100 billion dollars of arms and gave them to Saddam. Saddam then invaded Kuwait without paying his debt to the council’s member countries.

In fact, financial support of the council to Iraq encouraged Baghdad to attack Kuwait. Members of the (P)GCC, however, could do nothing to defend Kuwait and, finally, implored the US to push Iraq out of Kuwait.

Q: Since the security agreement between Saudi Arabia and Kuwait is supposed to further develop to assume a military dimension as well, can that agreement be considered as the beginning of an Arab NATO in the Middle East?

A: No. The issue of establishing an Arab NATO had already been raised. Arab countries lack capabilities to create an Arab NATO. This agreement can only lead to a new round of selling arms to Arab states of the region by Western countries and will, especially, strengthen the presence of Western military advisors in these countries.

The history of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council also shows that its member countries are not able to form an Arab NATO. The prerequisite for the establishment of an Arab NATO is existence of independent countries with shared regional goals and security attitude, both of which are lacking in Arab states. Arab countries, therefore, cannot give birth to a common military organization.

Q: What consequences can this agreement have for the Middle East region?

A: This issue is positive for revolutionary people in the region because it proves how fearful the regional Arab countries are of those revolutions. That fear, in turn, reflects deep concerns. The Saudi system is currently plagued with a serious crisis among Saudi princes as well as profound internal differences. The tribal and reactionary structure of Saudi Arabia does not allow them to solve their newly emerging problems.

Q: So, you think that the agreement will lead to unrest in Saudi Arabia?

A: Yes. The Saudi military will wonder what has happened to warrant such an agreement? I mean, why a regime which has not been able to solve its economic and political problems in full, is now investing so heavily in Bahrain?

Saudi Arabia should first solve its domestic problems. It should change its administrative divisions followed by the urban management and goods distribution system before attending to foreign problems.

Q: So, you think that the agreement may also increase protests among the Saudi military?

A: Certainly. Saudi military commanders have mostly studied in Britain and the United States and have open minds. They have not been trained in a closed environment. Of course, their number is not high, but they are different from traditional forces in the Saudi society. The Saudi military is dissatisfied.

Q: What harm can this agreement do to Saudi military to make them object to its conclusion?

A: The Saudi military is educated and they like to see their country progress. Military personnel are zealot and attach high importance to their country’s national power. An educated military person does not like to see his country’s people poor and its roads in ruins. The current political structure in Saudi Arabia is tribal and pre-modern and Saudi military commanders are well aware of this fact.

Key Words: Saudi Arabia, Arab NATO, Bahrain, Security Pact, Balance of Power, Annexation and Merger, Union, (P)GCC, Qannadbashi  

Source: Asriran News Website
Translated By: Iran Review

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