Discreetly but progressively and confidently the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is expanding south and southeast almost uncontested — after the collapse of the former USSR-led Warsaw Pact — outside the mandate designated by its statute into the Arab Middle East as well as into the Caspian Sea regions.
NATO has already secured its presence on the middle tier between the two regions, in
The contesting French influence had eased when former President Jacque Chirac near the end of his term shifted to coordinating with the United States in Lebanon; the French contest, particularly on the African theatre and especially on NATO’s northern Arab tier seems to have been completely neutralized with the electoral victory of the new President Nicolas Sarkozy, who chose to engage Washington as a “friend” and decided to rejoin NATO’s military structure.
The absence of any credible indigenous system rules out any worthwhile obstacles to NATO expansion from within the Arab Middle East region. The League of Arab States is practically no more than a fractured, division-burdened high level forum of a regional gathering structure with no teeth at all, threatened by the US-Israeli strategic alliance and the NATO with disintegration into an alternative wider “Greater Middle East” security structure that would embrace
The expansion southward was highlighted on October 9 with the signing of a treaty with Egypt at NATO’s headquarters in Brussels, “in a move that opens the door for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to be involved in security matters along Egypt’s border with Gaza (Strip),” according to the Jerusalem Post the next day, to possibly secure in particular the Salahuddin Passage (Philadelphi Route) according to Ynet.
Both treaties with
The ICP was upgraded from the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI), which was adopted by the NATO summit in
The Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) was the vehicle the NATO used to approach partnership arrangements in the region. This dialogue was originally initiated by European founders of NATO to promote economic and political cooperation with the southern Arab neighbors; in 2002 the MD was upgraded to security matters of concern and in 2004 NATO elevated its dialogue status to conceived genuine partnerships and an expanded framework of cooperation. The MD branched off the much older European – Arab dialogue, which began in the last quarter of the 20th century as an economic, political and cultural forum that has nothing to do with NATO or military prospects.
The ICP produced the Egyptian and Israeli treaties; the ICI had earlier produced cooperation arrangements with seven MD countries, namely Israel, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Jordan; similar cooperation was arranged with non-MD members of the GCC, namely Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia (which became an ICI partner in January). Since July 2005, the NATO has also provided air transport for peacekeeping forces in
Areas of both ICP and ICI cooperation arrangements include joint military war games, military training, defense reform, war on terror, countering Islamist militancy, military and security intelligence sharing, control of borders, demilitarization of the surplus of old and obsolete ammunition stockpiles and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO), serving NATO ships at partners’ seaports, hosting NATO-supported regional Security Cooperation Centre/s, providing logistical support to NATO’s peacekeeping operations, helping NATO in patrolling the Mediterranean Sea and regional waters, countering the spread of weapons of mass destruction, “to get these states closer to NATO’s way of thinking” according to a NATO official, opening NATO defense colleges to partners’ military officers, and other mechanisms to enhance practical cooperation on regional stability and security.
Initially adopting a low-key approach, NATO now feels more confident to send its Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, and his deputy on unprecedented public visits to
Scheffer may be officially warmly or cordially welcomed, but on the popular level NATO is conceived as a
Specifically, NATO’s treaties with Egypt and Israel, its cooperation with Jordan, with Lebanon falling within its mandate and the around the clock NATO patrols in the Mediterranean is in practice creating an external NATO wall that reinforces the internal military occupation walls Israel is erecting to tighten the siege it imposes on the Palestinian people.
Interrupting, Disrupting Kurdish – Turkish Crisis
However, “Just as the White House claims it has finally turned the corner in what it defines as the ‘central front’ in the ‘war on terror’ – Iraq – it has found itself desperately trying to contain new crises on the war’s periphery stretching east to Pakistan, west to Turkey and south to the Horn of Africa,” Jim Lobe wrote in Asia Times on November 10.
To prove his point, Lobe cited Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf’s latest “coup,” the continuing threat of a Turkish invasion of Iraqi Kurdistan, the looming probability of war between U.S.-backed Ethiopia and Eritrea, “amid a lack of concrete progress on the Israel-Palestinian peace process, the ongoing political impasse in Lebanon, and still-mounting tensions between Iran and the U.S.” and amid an anti-Americanism that now pervades the entire region.
This is for sure an unwelcoming environment for NATO, but at the same time an environment that the
“The situation along the border between Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan most directly threatens the administration’s efforts to stabilize Iraq,” said Lobe, but this is exactly where the NATO’s gradual, confident and successful expansion south could be curtailed, hindered and face problems because the US double-standard policies vis-à-vis what Washington herself list as “terrorist organizations” as well as her regional hegemonic plans pit the alliance against its Turkish founding member or at least create an environment conducive to a collision course between the two allies.
Now the Turks are after their “terrorist-harboring” Iraqi-Kurdish hosts as well, who were securing a safe haven for Kurdish rebels, demanding their extradition, a demand that the U.S.-allied Kurdish Iraqi President, Jalal Talibani, and the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Masoud Barzani, had categorically rejected and, motivated by seemingly Pan-Kurdish loyalties, announced their readiness to fight back any Turkish military incursion into their territories.
The prospect of a Turkish – Kurdish war that could embroil the Iraqi Kurds, the only trusted Iraqi ally supporting the U.S. occupation, and destabilize the only stable Iraqi region of Kurdistan to open a new front with a potential new flood of Iraqi refugees, this time Kurds, is a nightmare for the U.S. Washington can ill-afford to lose the support of either the Iraqi Kurds or that of the Turkish government across the border; both play a vital role in supporting the U.S. war effort in Iraq.
“With American troops already stretched thin and U.S. military leaders not trusting most Arab-dominated units of the Iraqi armed forces, the United States has relied extensively on Kurdish forces for counter-insurgency operations throughout Iraq,” Stephen Zunes wrote in the “Foreign Policy in Focus” on October 25.
Meanwhile Washington has turned her eyes away from the fact that Iraqi Kurdistan has become a safe haven for organizations outlawed by the
On Oct. 28, the turkishweekly.net quoted the author of the forthcoming book “The Iran Agenda: the Real Story of U.S. Policy and the Middle East Crisis,” Reese Erlich, as saying that, “Kurdish and American sources say the United States has been supporting guerilla raids against Iran, channeling the money through organizations in Iraqi Kurdistan.” Writing in the latest issue of Mother Jones, Erlich reported that the P.K.K., which is listed on the United States State Department List of Terrorist Organizations, “about two years ago split into four parties in each of the countries where the Kurds live” in Syria, Iraq, Turkey and Iran. “So the P.J.A.K. is the Iranian affiliate. Basically they’re still part of the same organization.” He added that the
Osman Ocalan, brother of the imprisoned P.K.K. leader Abdullah Ocalan, told AP last week that some fighters had moved toward Iran, and that there were now more P.K.K. fighters there than in northern Iraq. “P.K.K. forces are split into three parts situated in
Iraqi Kurds’ Pan-Kurdish “solidarity” with their Turkish, Iranian and Syrian compatriots is undercutting
President George W. Bush spelled out
“This crisis was predictable and predicted.
The New York Times on Oct. 22 reported that “American officials acknowledged that neither the
Ahead of their summit Bush sent his Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Ankara and to the meeting of Iraq neighbors in Istanbul with a “diplomatic” proposal to diffuse the crisis based on hitting at the heart of the Pan-Kurdish declared loyalties of the Iraqi Kurds’ leaders, Talbani and Barzani, by splitting the Kurds into a terrorist camp, which Rice declared in Ankara as the “common enemy” of her country, Turkey and Iraq and a non-terrorist camp which both men represent.
During their summit on Nov. 5, Bush promised Erdogan that
NATO had earlier expressed its solidarity with
But for how long could
Scot Sullivan, writing in The Conservative Voice on Nov. 9, had a different interpretation of the results of the Bush-Erdogan summit: “The
First, Bush’s offer to share intelligence with
To add insult to injury, the “
Wider Strategic Envelopment of
The Caspian Sea region is gradually emerging as one of the most explosive parts of the world and the
On a wider scale the NATO-U.S. heavy and aggressive involvement in both regions is strategically invoking defensive responses by Chine and Russia, which geopolitically consider both regions, but the Caspian in particular, their backyards; hence their evolving bilateral strategic coordination as well as their growing closer ties with Iran, the regional major player targeted by the NATO-U.S. involvement.
“The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is considering the possibility of providing security for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline,” Vasilyeva quoted Robert Simmons, the NATO secretary general’s special representative for the Caucasus and
On October 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Iranian media in
Under the headline, “Turkey Rediscovers the Middle East,” the July/August edition of the magazine Foreign Affairs wrote, “a significant shift in the country’s foreign policy has gone largely unnoticed: after of decades of passivity, Turkey is now emerging as an important diplomatic actor in the Middle East.” Within this context
Similar pragmatic evolution of ties and coordination with the two major obstacles to NATO’s expansion south and southeast, namely
Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in