"It is also provisionally given the grand-sounding title of Middle East
Strategic Alliance (MESA). I think that should be changed to Middle East
Strategic Stooges, which would then give the rather appropriate acronym
"MESS”…seriously, though, this proposed US-led Arab force is a contemptible
joke. Most of its proposed members are deeply destabilizing, despotic regimes in
the Middle East,” Cunningham told Tasnim on Wednesday.
Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, and Strategic Culture Foundation.
Following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: According to media reports, the Trump administration is quietly pushing ahead with a bid to create a new security and political alliance with six Persian Gulf Arab states, Egypt and Jordan, to contain Iran’s growing influence in the region. What do you think about the so-called "Arab NATO" force?
Cunningham: This renewed plan for a US-led Arab coalition military force was reported by Reuters on July 27. It has been called an "Arab NATO”. It is also provisionally given the grand-sounding title of Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA). I think that should be changed to Middle East Strategic Stooges, which would then give the rather appropriate acronym "MESS”.
Seriously, though, this proposed US-led Arab force is a contemptible joke. Most of its proposed members are deeply destabilizing, despotic regimes in the Middle East. To say this coalition’s mission will be for "countering terrorism and extremism” is absurd and an insult to intelligence. It’s like calling up arsonists to perform as a fire brigade. Hence, the more accurate initials for this motley crew of rogues should be "MESS”.
Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf Arab crony regimes are the biggest sponsors of Wahhabi terrorism, both financially and ideologically. This terrorism has served American imperialist interests well for the purpose of inciting regime change in the region, as well as for fomenting general chaos and sectarian conflict between Muslims and other religions. This mayhem is a deliberate objective to suit American interests, as well as those of Israel and the Arab dictatorships.
The idea for such a force is not new. It goes back decades. One can trace, for example, the present Saudi-dominated (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and its so-called military "defense shield” to its rationalizing inception back in the early 1980s. That was a reaction and a deliberate attempt by the American Arab client regimes to counter Iran’s Islamic Revolution in 1979. This latest drive for an Arab NATO is a continuation of the American imperialist obsession with Iran.
US imperialist interests in the oil-rich Middle East totally depend on its instrument of surrogate regimes, principally Israel and the equally despotic Arab dictatorships led by Saudi Arabia.
This proposed newer version of US imperialist military proxies, or surrogates, is being openly declared as a "bulwark” against Iran, as well as pretending to have the other missions of "countering terrorism and extremism”.
Countering Iran is a real purpose, but the rhetoric about "countering terrorism and extremism” is a barefaced absurdity. It’s an oxymoron.
Note, however, that this will be a colossal boon for US military profits. As Reuters reported: "The White House wants to see deeper cooperation between the countries on missile defense, military training, counter-terrorism and other issues such as strengthening regional economic and diplomatic ties.”
An attempt to organize such a coalition could indeed be a practical way for the Trump administration to increase its hostile pressure on Iran. But even regardless of that possible outcome, Washington stands to gain hundreds of billions of dollars in the proposed installation of more missile systems in the region.
In short, this proposed "MESS” is a military instrument to enforce American aggression against nations that don’t kowtow to its objectives; it is also, crucially, more of the same money-spinning racket for the US military-industrial complex. But in doing so, such a force, will unleash more violence, death and destruction across the long-blighted and suffering region. Just look at the horror that Yemen and Syria have been put through. That horror is by the same people who are now absurdly proposing to set up a "security” force.
Tasnim: Saudi officials raised the idea of a security pact ahead of a Trump visit last year to Saudi Arabia where he announced a massive arms deal, but the alliance proposal did not get off the ground at the time. How much do you think an Arab NATO could be a game-changer in the region?
Cunningham: If this Arab coalition becomes organized and operational, it will be giving itself a legalistic mandate to be more interventionist and destructive in the region. A license to violate sovereignty and international law, in much the same way that the US-led NATO alliance in Europe has done with regard to conducting illegal wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Objectively speaking, this would-be Arab coalition is nothing but a gang thug who will enforce American aggression. In that way, it may be a game-changer for all the wrong reasons, not in any complimentary sense of the phrase. It’s a potential "game-changer” in terms of propagating more sectarian conflict, despotism, terrorism, bloodshed, violence, war… and mega profits for American militarism.
Tasnim: Similar initiatives by previous US administrations to develop a more formal alliance with the Persian Gulf and Arab allies have failed in the past. Do you think this would fail as well?
Cunningham: Yes. Going by decades of past initiatives, this will be another flop. Because the real purpose for its being is entirely false and nefarious. There is no coherent, unifying, good and genuine purpose. It is all about fomenting aggression and conflict. The proposed individual members are too compromised and corrupt to have any professional function. But the danger is that such rhetoric about "confronting Iran” is recklessly inflammatory for a region that is already racked with US-led aggression and war crimes.
Readers may find the following articleof interest by Doug Bandow at The American Conservative (TAC). Notably, Bandow is a former aide to President Ronald Reagan (1981-89). One insightful quote from the article is the following: "Creating MESA [or as I prefer to say MESS] would double down on Washington’s manifestly failed Mideast strategy… Virtually every Middle East problem today that elicits cries for more American involvement resulted from misguided US interference a year ago, a decade, or more.”
In my view, that is a fair – albeit understated – summary of the historical and contemporary reality of American foreign policy in the Middle East. Yet now we are somehow expected to take Washington and its client regimes seriously when they talk about setting up a new military "security” force. It’s like calling up the arsonists.