NATO's Role In The Military Encirclement Of Iran
Following on the heels of identifying himself as the "Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars" and moreover the head of state of no less than "the world's sole military superpower"  while being presented with what is still curiously called the Nobel Peace Prize, U.S. President Barack Obama in his first State of the Union address on January 27 asserted "the international community is more united, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is more isolated" and threatened: "As Iran's leaders continue to ignore their obligations, there should be no doubt: They...will face growing consequences. That is a promise."
Two days later his secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, delivered an address at a major French military academy, revealingly enough, and while there she coupled excoriation of Iran with an anything but diplomatic dressing down of China, stating "China will be under a lot of pressure to recognize the destabilizing impact that a nuclear-armed Iran would have in the [Persian] Gulf...." 
Pressure from Washington, of course. On the very day of Clinton's speech in Paris the White House confirmed the completion of a $6.4 billion weapons transfer to Taiwan.
On February 9 U.S. Department of Defense spokesman Geoff Morrell told the press that his boss, Pentagon chief Robert Gates, wants the United Nations to impose sanctions on Iran within "weeks, not months" and "clearly thinks time is of the essence." 
During the First World War Austrian journalist and dramatist Karl Kraus lamented: "What mythological confusion is this? Since when has Mars been the god of commerce and Mercury the god of war?"
If he were alive today he would be equally bemused by the U.S.'s top diplomat delivering an address at a military academy (and condescendingly admonishing the world's most populous nation) and its defense chief pressuring the world to impose punitive sanctions against a country that has not attacked any other in centuries.
The secretary general of the U.S.-led "world's sole global military bloc" - Anders Fogh Rasmussen - spoke at the annual Munich Security Conference on February 7, delivering himself of a ponderous and grandiose screed entitled NATO in the 21st Century: Towards Global Connectivity, during which he touted the role of the military bloc in intruding itself into almost every interstice imaginable: The ever-expanding war in Afghanistan, terrorism, cyber attacks, energy cut-offs - the last two references to Russia if not formally acknowledged as such - nuclear non-proliferation, climate change, piracy, failed states, drugs, "humanitarian disasters, conflicts over arable land, and mounting competition for natural resources,"  North Korea and Iran.
In repeating Alliance and other Western leaders' demands that "NATO should become a forum for consultation on worldwide security issues," Rasmussen stated that "to carry out NATO's job effectively today, the Alliance should become the hub of a network of security partnerships and a centre for consultation on international security issues....And we don't have to start from scratch. Already today, the Alliance has a vast network of security partnership[s], as far afield as Northern Africa, the Gulf, Central Asia, and the Pacific." 
Indeed NATO has a broad and expanding network of members and military partners throughout the world. It has one member, Turkey, the second largest contributor of troops to the bloc, which borders Iran, and a partnership ally, Azerbaijan, which does also.
Rasmussen's allusion to the Persian Gulf refers to increasing military contacts, visits and joint activities between NATO and the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which parallel the intensification of the U.S. buildup in the region  and is conducted within the framework of the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) launched in 2004. 
The project received the name it did as it was inaugurated at the NATO summit in Istanbul which, after almost completing the absorption of all of Eastern Europe into the bloc, introduced the same graduated partnership process used earlier to incorporate ten new European members for the seven Mediterranean Dialogue nations in the Middle East and Africa (Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia) and six states in the Persian Gulf (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). All thirteen are covered under the ICI, but extending NATO military partnerships to six Persian Gulf nations for the first time was the most ambitious and significant aspect of the program.
It marked the commencement of NATO's drive into the Gulf to complement the U.S. strategy of containing and eventually confronting Iran.
One of the stated objectives of the ICI was to "invite interested countries...to join Operation Active Endeavour (OAE),"  the NATO naval surveillance and interdiction operation (a de facto blockade) throughout the Mediterranean Sea which will be nine years old this October. The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative links control of the Mediterranean with expansion through the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden, where the NATO Ocean Shield naval operation is currently being run, and the Arabian Sea into the Persian Gulf.
An earlier article in this series listed the main objectives of the ICI:
-Employing GCC states to base troops, warplanes, cargo and surveillance for operations both in the area and throughout the so-called Broader Middle East.