U.S. summit in Poland next month hopes to create an 'Arab NATO'
By Feng Ran, Chen Fangting
The U.S. will be hosting a summit focused on the Middle East next month in Poland, with one of the goals being "to build a coalition of Middle Eastern forces that can respond to many threats to the region," said U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in an interview with Al Arabiya TV on Saturday.
Pompeo is on a nine-nation trip to the Middle East, which began on Tuesday.
Pompeo said "It is time for old rivalries to end for the sake of the greater good of the region."
That's what the U.S. top diplomat said on Thursday in Cairo, where he also vowed to "expel every last Iranian boot" from Syria.
And two days later, Pompeo stressed again the formation of an Arab force and alliance. The initiative that the U.S. is seeking is termed by many as an "Arab NATO," an anti-Iran front that could bring together Gulf countries, as well as Egypt and Jordan.
During his trip, Pompeo strongly criticized the Obama administration's Middle East policy. He said it "grossly underestimated the tenacity and viciousness of radical Islamism." Pompeo also promised "the United States is not going to leave the Middle East region."
But creating an "Arab NATO" is not easy.
The crisis between Gulf Cooperation Council members Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and Qatar now enters a second year. Washington's efforts to ease the dispute have so far failed. One result of the breach was Qatar restoring diplomatic relations with Iran.
Also within the GCC, Oman has a relatively neutral policy towards Iran. And it had previously refused to participate in the Arab alliance to support the government's legitimacy in Yemen.
It's too early to tell whether the U.S. can succeed in creating an "Arab NATO." But even as Trump announces troop withdrawals from the Middle East, Washington is convening an international gathering in Poland next month on the region and battling Iran's influence.