The Trump administration is in talks with Sunni Arab states about having them form a NATO-like mutual defense organization to counter Iran and the Islamic State, which would share intelligence with Israel, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The coalition would consist of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Jordan, and would be open to other Arab countries as well.
“They’ve been asking diplomatic missions in Washington if we’d be willing to join this force that has an Israeli component,” one Arab diplomat told the Journal. “Israel’s role would be intelligence sharing, not training or boots on the ground. They’d provide intelligence and targets. That’s what the Israelis are good at.”
According to the Journal, “In talks with administration officials over the past two weeks, Emirati and Saudi officials have expressed admiration for Israeli security and intelligence capabilities, tacitly agreeing to pool intelligence with the Israelis if the alliance is formed.” Saudi Maj. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said, “With Israel, we don’t have official relations…[But] the Israelis are facing the same Iranian threat, exactly like us.”
It is currently unclear how far talks have progressed on the alliance, which would include a mutual defense pact for the Arab countries involved and would receive military and intelligence support from the United States. Middle East officials told the Journal that Arab diplomats in Washington have discussed the plan with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Mike Flynn, who served as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser before resigning on Monday. Before Flynn’s resignation, diplomats said that the initiative would be raised during Mattis’ upcoming visit to the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has often mentioned warmer relations between Israel and Sunni Arab countries. “For the first time in Israel’s lifetime and my lifetime, Arab countries in the region do not see Israel as an enemy but as an ally,” Netanyahu said during a press conference with Trump at the White House on Wednesday. He also alluded to a new regional peace initiative that would take advantage of the stronger partnerships Israel now has with Arab states.
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