Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a senior advisor to Donald Trump, is proposing a NATO-like Arab alliance in the Middle East to build stronger ties with Arab and North African allies in an effort to dismantle the growing threat of radical terrorist groups.
The former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency told Circa in an exclusive interview that if Trump is elected president, a main priority would be the creation of a new "21st century alliance" he referred to as a Gulf Treaty Organization to reestablish relations with allies he said have been weakened by the Obama administration.
"We have to stop being the worst friends in the world," Flynn said.
Last December, Saudi Arabia announced that it was leading a coalition of 34 Arab nations to fight the Islamic State. But when the coalition formed, it was agreed that resolutions they created would legally be non-binding. Arab state actors criticized the group's creation as being rushed and in some cases, nations included on the list had no idea they were part of the agreement.
A senior expert in Middle Eastern affairs who has counseled the Trump campaign, told Circa on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to speak on the matter, that the alliance would more realistically be bilateral, similar to the strong alliance the U.S. has with South Korea and Japan. It, however, would carry more weight than the current non-binding alliance led by Saudi Arabia and would be guided by U.S. leadership.
The advisor said the alliance would likely include Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Morocco and Israel, as well as other Arab nations depending on current outcomes. Tunisia is significant because more than likely it would be the anchor in North Africa that could aide the U.S. with with Libya, where the political system has crumbled under duress of extremist and tribal groups.
"You won't be able to get a full alliance like NATO but you can get strong bilateral relationships that will function just like a NATO alliance," the senior advisor said.
Dr. Noha Bakr, a NATO expert and professor at the American University of Cairo, told Circa that the difficulty would be distinguishing how are these bilateral agreements are different from what NATO is doing with its so-called "Mediterranean dialogue" that assess threats from North Africa and the Middle East. Those talks involve "seven non-NATO countries of the Mediterranean region: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia," according to the NATO website.
Bakr, who is also assistant to the minister of International Cooperation of Egypt, said even now, the existing coalition "has not been very effective," and added that cooperation and its mechanisms are there, but it's hindered by obstacles that include issues of "confidence and interoperability measures."
Flynn said trust in the U.S. needs to be rebuilt to make any bi-lateral agreement work.
"We can leverage people like [Egyptian] President [Abdel-Fattah] Al-Sisi in Egypt and we need to look at the King of Jordan, who is a great guy and who has actually talked about this and we need to get some of the other partners who are willing to step into the role, but they need U.S. leadership and U.S. leadership's been lacking."
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