President Donald Trump has backed plans to offer a Middle East Security Alliance (MESA) to members of the GCC supportive of America’s stand on Iran, a proposal that is expected to be discussed behind the scenes at the UNGA meetings in New York.
Diplomats see the evolving position of Washington towards a new core group as a product of the Iran situation but also a plank of the Middle East peace process review undertaken by Mr Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
“It’s encouraging to us that something like an Arab Nato could be on the table to help provide a context for US involvement in regional security,” one Middle East diplomat said.
While Mr Trump has been confrontational in his handling of the European partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, officials suggest the model can inspire a new formation in the region.
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has retreated into the shadows since the boycott of Qatar by its neighbours came into force in 2017. While the GCC secretariat still functions and Kuwait has been tireless as the rotating chair, there have been effects stemming of Qatar’s failure to respond to concerns over its support for terrorism and its promotion of extremism.
The issue of Iran is set to dominate the UNGA summit. If there is to be a convergence of ideas around a MESA agreement that will create a moment of truth for Qatar, which shares the North Dome natural gas deposit with Tehran.
Officials said the proposed MESA partners, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE and Bahrain, would represent a strong consensus on Iran if the US wanted to pull the grouping together.
Since pulling out of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran earlier this year, Mr Trump has moved swiftly to put the Iranian economy under sanctions pressure. The policy has been far more successful in isolating the Iranian economy than the naysayers predicted.
Richard Nephew, an Iran expert at Colombia University, has predicted that the only Western businesses in a position to continue trading with Iran will be small and medium sized enterprises based in Europe.
Projections of a steep drop off in Iran oil exports after a second round of sanctions in November will push the pressure on the regime even higher. At UNGA commercial ties across the Gulf will naturally be a focus for the White House as President Trump holds meetings before and after he chairs a special session of the Security Council on the issue.