METO: Could it stabilize the Middle East?
Retired Army General Jack Keane suggests that the nations of the Middle East who oppose the Iran/Assad-Syria/Hezbollah coalition form what might be called: The Middle East Treaty Organization (METO), a regional, collective-security arrangement along the lines of NATO. In short, contain the westward expansion of Iranian/Shiite influence by building a "wall," if you will, of Middle Eastern nations that are religiously and culturally opposed to Persian Iran, and to Bashar al-Assadís Syria.
Because most Iranians speak Persian, rather than Arabic, and because the Iranians and Assadís off-brand-Muslim Alawite followers are Shiite-Muslims, METO would need to be formed from mostly Sunni-Muslim and largely Arabic-speaking nations.
Given President Trumpís campaign promise of fewer entangling foreign alliances, wealthy Saudi Arabia, led by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, would be needed to provide the leadership and the start-up costs for METO. Even though Israel might only be accorded ex-officio status in METO, the Saudiís recent, new-found liking for Israel might allow Israel to provide badly needed intelligence.
The forward or east-facing wall of METO might include: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, the already NATO-allied Turks and, hopefully, a nascent Kurdistan. That way, METO would almost completely seal off Iran from the West. (Unfortunately, Iraq is heavily Shiite and not a good prospect for METO.)
But if we could expand METO to include the Arabic-speaking states along the southern rim of the Mediterranean Sea (Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco) -- plus NATO-allied Greece, Italy, France and Spain -- METO could have a very positive impact on assuring the maritime nations of the world, to include the United States, of peaceful maritime trade across the Mediterranean and out into the Atlantic Ocean.
But what would Russia, which is currently allied with Iran, Assadís Syria, and, by extension, Hezbollah, think about METO? Recall, Russia is desperate to maintain its access to the warm waters of the Mediterranean, and to the Russian naval base at Tartus, Syria. Due to male alcoholism, fetal alcohol syndrome, and abortions, Putin is faced with a declining ethnic Russian population. Conversely, Russiaís Muslim population continues to rise. Moreover, due to expanding U.S. oil and gas production, there is lower demand for Russiaís oil and gas. Therefore, in addition to depopulating, Russia is slowly going broke.
Moreover, due to former Chairman Maoís one-family-one-child policy, many female babies were discarded in favor of male babies. Ergo: Red China is facing a serious shortage of females, leading to an eventual shortage of laborers. Putin has to worry about Red China invading Siberia as a way of rectifying Red Chinaís shortage of fruitful females.
All this puts Turkey, which controls Putinís access to the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean-bordering members of NATO, in the cat birdís seat. If virtually every nation surrounding the Mediterranean joins or, at least, supports METO, Putinís Russia must behave better toward the West.
But do the Arabic-speaking Sunni-Muslims of the Middle East have the foresight, the leadership, and the will to form a regional, collective-security arrangement that would lock Iran in a box and, at the same time, exert such control over the Mediterranean Sea as to bring Vladimir Putin and Russia to heel? That remains to be seen.
©2018. William Hamilton.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. In 2015, he was named an Outstanding Alumnus of the University of Nebraska. Dr. Hamilton is the author of The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill, Pegasus Imprimis Press (2017).
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