Egypt withdraws from the Arab NATO security initiative
Egypt has pulled out of the US effort to forge an 'Arab NATO' with key Arab allies.
Iran Press/Middle East: Egypt conveyed its decision to the US and other participants in the proposed Middle East Security Alliance, or MESA, ahead of a meeting held Sunday in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, one source said.
According to an Iran Press report citing the Reuters news agency, Cairo did not send a delegation to the meeting, the latest gathering held to advance the US-led effort to bind Sunni Muslim Arab allies into security, political and economic pact to counter Shi'a Iran, the source said.
Egypt withdrew because it doubted the seriousness of the initiative, had yet to see a formal blueprint laying it out, and because of the danger that the plan would increase tensions with Iran, said an Arab source who, like the others, spoke on condition of anonymity.
Uncertainty about whether the US President Donald Trump will win a second term next year and whether a successor may ditch the initiative also contributed to the Egyptian decision, the Arab source said.
The initiative, which Saudi Arabia first proposed in 2017, also is aimed at limiting the growing regional influence of Russia and China.
The Egyptian Embassy in Washington and the White House did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
In addition to the United States and Saudi Arabia, the MESA participants include the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, and Jordan.
Two days after the Riyadh meeting, Egypt President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi visited Washington for talks with Trump.
Before the meeting, Trump said they would talk about security issues, but it was not clear whether they discussed the MESA issue.
Two sources said the countries remaining in MESA were moving ahead with the initiative and would press Egypt diplomatically to revoke its withdrawal, with one saying that the decision did not appear to be final.
The withdrawal of Egypt, which has the Arab world’s largest military, is the latest setback to the MESA initiative, informally referred to as the 'Arab NATO.'
The plan already was complicated by international outrage over the October 2018 murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, which Turkish officials and some US lawmakers have accused Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of ordering.
Other obstacles have been feuds among the Arab allies, especially a Saudi-led economic and political boycott of Qatar.
The problems have forced several postponements of a summit meeting in the United States at which a preliminary accord on the alliance would be signed.
John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, has been a key proponent of the MESA plan and an architect of the administration’s strategy for containing Iran, according to US officials. 208/103