Tabnak – As the US President Donald Trump is on the verge of his trip to the Middle East, renewed talks of a possible plan to create so-called "Arab NATO” has sparked debates within various international circles. However, the definite fact is that the trip will mark a new phase of US-Arab military relations.
The reports published by the local sources indicate that Trump’s first official foreign trip since taking office will include three key summits on May 20-21, attended by 55 representatives from various countries – mainly Arab states – as well as several business activities and various celebrations.
Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that when Trump arrives in Riyadh this week, he will lay out his vision for a new regional security architecture White House officials call an "Arab NATO,” to guide the "fight against terrorism” and push back against Iran. As a cornerstone of the plan, Trump will also announce one of the largest arms-sales deals in history.
Behind the scenes, the Trump administration and Saudi Arabia have been conducting extensive negotiations, led by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The discussions began shortly after the presidential election, when bin Salman sent a delegation to meet with Kushner and other Trump officials at Trump Tower.
In a more detailed report, Reuters write that the US President is expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia bearing "gifts” — a package of weapons deals totaling more than $100 billion. The agreement includes ships, missile defense, and maritime security systems, according to a White House official.
Jared Malsin writes in an analysis for the Time that the revitalized friendship now stands to benefit both Trump and the Saudi monarchy. The US president and key members of the royal family now appear united behind a more aggressive approach to a series of crises throughout the Middle East.
Both Trump and key Saudi officials favor intensified military action in Yemen. Trump has also become more confrontational with Iran. The White House's decision to increase the flow of weapons suggests that the two governments have laid the foundations for a tight partnership.
It should be noted that while Trump has criticized Saudi Arabia for not paying enough for US military support, he has been silent since becoming president about its obvious radicalism. Saudi’s Wahhabi doctrine is ultra-conservative, imposing a distorted version of Islam and urging resumption of what it considers as early Muslim practices.
However, reacting to the reports of a new US-Saudi military and security partnership, Iran’s Defense Minister General Hossein Deghan warned that "the US and the Zionist and al-Saud regimes have created sensitive and complicated conditions in the region and have hatched dangerous plots to continue crisis, war and bloodshed in the region within the framework of an Arab NATO.”
Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Bahram Ghassemi also slammed the Riyadh summit, noting that Muslim leaders participating in it would go their own way as soon as they return to their respective countries. Ghassemi cautioned that the Saudi initiative would further divide the Muslim world.
Josh Rogin of Washington Post believes that the pending announcements of the new security framework and the huge arms deal are evidence that the Saudi courtship of the Trump White House has been successful beyond expectations. However, it is really predictable that a closer Washington-Riyadh partnership will only add to the chaos that has already shook the region.