Saudi Arabia: Persian Gulf Of Strategic Interest To NATO
On June 18 Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen met with Saudi Arabia's Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Nizar Madani at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium.
The head of the Western military alliance extended an invitation to the Persian Gulf kingdom to join NATO's partnership program in the region, stating "Saudi Arabia is a key player in the region and NATO would welcome the opportunity to engage the Kingdom's government as a partner in the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative."
The latter was launched in 2004 during the NATO summit in the Turkish city which gave the partnership its name, part of a series of sweeping measures that also saw the largest-ever one-time expansion of NATO membership - the absorption of seven new nations in Eastern Europe, including the first former Yugoslav and first three former Soviet republics - as well as committing the bloc to upgrading its other Middle Eastern military partnership program, the Mediterranean Dialogue (whose members are Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia), to that of the Partnership for Peace, which was used to elevate NATO's 12 new post-Cold War members to their current status.
The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) is aimed at the West's political and military partners in the Persian Gulf, the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. All but Oman and Saudi Arabia have joined the ICI.
Over the past six years NATO naval groups have visited Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Leading NATO officials have paid visits to and the bloc has held conferences in ICI member states.
Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have troops serving under NATO command in Afghanistan, and Qatar and the United Arab Emirates supplied warplanes for NATO's six-month air campaign against Libya last year.
Now, with the U.S. and its Western allies refocusing on the Persian Gulf and the threat of Western military action against Syria and Iran mounting, it is clearly NATO's intention to recruit Saudi Arabia for the Persian Gulf partnership.
The Saudi diplomat, in addition to meeting with NATO chief Rasmussen, also met with the bloc's deputy secretary general, the Atlantic Council (which consists of the permanent representatives - ambassadors - of its 28 member states) and other alliance officials "who provided him with an overview of NATO's outreach and cooperation programmes with partner countries in the Mediterranean and in the Gulf region." That is, with the seven Mediterranean Dialogue and four Istanbul Cooperation Initiative members. (To date. Libya will be the next member of the first, with Syria and Lebanon to follow if the West succeeds in overthrowing the government of Syria. Iraq and Yemen are prospective members of the second.)