Egypt withdraws from US-led anti-Iran security pact

Citing a lack of seriousness on the part of the U.S. and other Sunni Arab states in the Middle East, Egypt has withdrawn from the Middle East Security Alliance, or MESA, which was formed to counter Iranian influence in the region.

MESA was supposed to be a Middle Eastern NATO.  But the organization apparently had difficulty getting off the ground.


Egypt conveyed its decision to the United States 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.

Cairo did not send a delegation to the meeting, the latest gathering held to advance the U.S.-led effort to bind Sunni Muslim Arab allies into a security, political and economic pact to counter Shi'ite 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 U.S. 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.

"It's not moving well," a Saudi source said of the initiative.

The initiative, which Saudi Arabia first proposed in 2017, also is aimed at limiting the growing regional influence of Russia and China, according to a classified White House document reviewed by Reuters last year.

Sharing a common enemy is a good start to any alliance, but the deep-seated problems among various blocs in the Middle East was proving to be a huge obstacle to cooperation.  Indeed, Egypt has its own fish to fry in the region and sees the Saudis and the Gulf States as rivals rather than allies.

The biggest obstacle is that no one can agree on a definition of the threat.


Forming MESA is a challenge as there is no agreement among potential members regarding the threat Iran poses nor how to best address it[2].  Historically, GCC states are quicker to close ranks in the face of a commonly perceived threat.  The GCC was formed in response to the Iran-Iraq war, and the bloc was most united in its apprehension to what it perceived as U.S. disengagement from the Middle East during the Obama Administration.  So long as the GCC states feel reassured that the U.S. will remain directly involved in the region, they may see no need for national security cohesion amongst themselves.  The ongoing GCC crisis indicates that Arab Gulf states place little faith in regional institutions and prefer bilateralism, especially where security issues are concerned.  The failure of the Peninsula Shield Force to ever develop into an effective regional defense body able to deter and respond to military aggression against any GCC member is perhaps the most prolific example of this bilateralism dynamic[3].  Further, a resolution to the ongoing boycott of Qatar by GCC members would almost certainly be a prerequisite to the establishment of MESA.  Even if the Qatar crisis were to be resolved, defense cooperation would still be impeded by the wariness with which these states will view one another for years to come.

Since the end of World War II, the U.S. has sought to form NATO-like security alliances around the world.  The Southeast Asian Treaty Organization (SEATO) is a prime example.  It was formed to counter Communist aggression in southeast Asia in the 1950s.  But after the Vietnam War ended, most of the nations lost interest in the alliance and it was abandoned in 1977.

It looks as though MESA will meet a similar fate.  The Sunni nations of the Middle East don't have the cohesion and history that the European states that formed NATO had.  There appears to be more that separates Egypt and the Gulf States than anything that could bring them together.