By Fares Braizat, Jun 19,2022

Establishing a comprehensive security organization for the Middle East is a tall order, given inter- and intra-state dynamic complexities. A more reasonable and realistic option is to build a regional cooperative security mechanism that aims to include Iran, Israel, Turkey, and the Arab states. The states are governed by geographic and political boundaries, where security interests are not always aligned. Because of this divergence in views on security and interests, actors must create a regional mechanism to avoid more complexities and proxy wars.

While it is difficult to convene these states in one place to discuss their security issues and priorities, it is possible to start small and develop basic themes of cooperative security. States, regardless of size, influence, or power, have interests in protecting their sovereignty and preserving their security, especially with the growth of asymmetrical deterrence as an affordable defense and war strategy. 

Cooperative security in this context refers to informal cooperation and dialogue between MENA region states and their international partners with a prevalent interest in the region, including the US, the EU, China, Russia, and India. Such an arrangement should not contradict sub-regional arrangements such as the GCC collective defense approach or the emerging Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq arrangement. 

The challenge here is for the region to find its own approach to building such a mechanism. Comparative experiences suggest that Europe opted for a formally institutionalized regime, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), which has come under severe pressure because of the Russia-Ukraine war (two member-states of the OSCE). Asia established the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as an informal mechanism for dialogue. Latin America created a hybrid regime for security cooperation. The Middle East is the only region without such a mechanism.

The Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation have not effectively prevented conflicts. The Iran-Iraq war, Iraq-Kuwait war, Saudi-Yemen war, the Morocco-Algeria dispute over Western Sahara, Sudan civil wars, Kurds in Syria, Iraq, and Iran, and Israeli wars with the Arab States are some examples. Obviously, these organizations and their member states are not acting — or are not acting alone — to find a solution. Global superpowers are present and are calling the shots in these conflicts. 

Whether we like it or not, Russia and the US will not leave the region. They might delegate roles and responsibilities to regional allies, but Russia fought hard to get a foothold in the Mediterranean, and it will not abandon that position. The US will also remain a superpower, but it does not mind the presence of other great powers. 

Realistically, creating a security cooperation mechanism will not prevent or end all conflicts in the region. However, it can provide a dialogue-based approach to conflict prevention and resolution by adopting some commonly agreed principles to preserve security and maximize cooperation. Therefore, it should be voluntary for regional states to join. And even arch-foes Iran, Israel, and Saudi Arabia all signaled a willingness to entertain the idea. Some more proactively than others.      

The writer is the Chairman of NAMA Strategic Intelligence Solutions, H.E. Dr. Fares Braizat. 

This article was originally published in Jordan News on June 19, 2022. For the original article source, click here