Iraq: NATO Forges New Strategic Partnership In Persian Gulf
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization announced on June 20 that it has opened what it terms a Transition Cell in Iraq "to smooth the path towards strengthened partnership and cooperation."
The decision to do so was reached at the May 20-21 summit of the Western military bloc in Chicago.
The initiative follows eight years of the NATO Training Mission-Iraq, established in 2004 under the control of NATO's top political body, the North Atlantic Council, and in conjunction with the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq. The first commander of both the training mission and the command was David Petraeus, who set up both operations and who subsequently was in charge of U.S. Central Command, then of all U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan and is now director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The announcement by NATO that it was continuing and deepening military cooperation with the government and military of Iraq came a day after a Saudi deputy foreign minister visited NATO Headquarters to strengthen strategic relations with the alliance and NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen urged the Persian Gulf military powerhouse join the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative.
On June 18 NATO announced that Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow would arrive in Israel for a two-day visit to meet with senior government officials and on June 20 leave for Jordan to meet with Prince Faisal bin Hussein, Prime Minister Al-Tarawnah and Chief of Defense Staff General Al-Zaben and deliver a keynote address at a conference titled "NATO in the new global security era."
Israel and Jordan are members of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue military partnership along with Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia, with Libya slated to be the next addition.
Ahead of the Chicago summit NATO disclosed a new, geographically unlimited, category of military cooperation it calls partners across the globe, and identified its first eight members as Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mongolia, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea.
In March Mongolia, bordering Russia to its north and China to its south, was the first nation to be granted another new NATO partnership, the Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme.
On June 20 NATO announced that within months Iraq's Individual Partnership and Cooperation Programme will be finalized.
Last October, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq stated American military trainers, as many as 5,000, might be allowed to remain in his country under the auspices of the NATO Training Mission-Iraq, but NATO's insistence on immunity from prosecution for its personnel led to the mission being terminated on December 31.
Nevertheless, the U.S.-dominated military organization trained over 5,000 Iraqi officers and soldiers and more than 11,000 security personnel, members of the Iraqi Federal Police and Oil Police.
The NATO Training Mission-Iraq conducted English language courses in Iraq and training courses for senior officers at the Iraqi Defence University for Military Studies and the Iraqi War College as well as abroad at the NATO Joint Warfare Centre in Stavanger, Norway.
Two years ago American Lieutenant General Michael Barbero was quoted on the NATO Training Mission-Iraq website stating: "NATO advisors and mentors are shaping the future leadership of the Iraqi Army, at all levels, from the Basic Officer Commissioning Course, to the Joint Staff and Command College, the Iraqi War College, and the Iraqi National Defence College."
If the West can't control how Iraqis vote and thus their government, NATO can leave behind a foreign-trained officer corps as a Trojan horse for use as needed in a country flanked by Syria in the west and Iran in the east.