Considering the turmoil embroiling the Middle East, it may appear to be an inopportune time to raise the prospect of renewing regional security cooperation. Yet it is exactly at such junctures, when the regional order is in flux and the costs of conflict are prohibitive, that it is critical to consider new regional models. We need to aspire to a different security order even as we need to be realistic about our expectations to quickly achieve more cooperation and less conflict.
Across the Middle East, mistrust and competition between states is growing, with devastating consequences for the region and its people. This instability underscores the absence of any regionwide mechanism for conflict prevention and management. Yet experience shows that security cooperation is possible, even in the Middle East—but that new approaches and political will are necessary to make it work. Prior regional initiatives also arose out of dynamics of competition and volatility. Those initiatives provide lessons, in their minor advances and serious missteps, that can guide the search for stability in an increasingly chaotic and violent region. Lessons from previous regional security cooperation efforts can help improve the design and implementation of future initiatives, and may even lead to more successful outcomes.
New efforts will be more likely to succeed if the goal is to create informal but centrally organized security discussions focused on common challenges, rather than to attempt to build competitive alliances focused on a single threat or country. It also will be critical to delink any new regional security forum from existing political processes, whether Arab-Israeli diplomacy or the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
For too long, the Middle East has been a global outlier: it is the only region to lack an organized platform for regional security discussions. Even modest goals for security cooperation could improve the regional climate and offer an opportunity to prevent and contain the escalation of future conflicts. This report provides a summary of previous security cooperation efforts, considers key lessons from these experiences, and concludes with recommendations on the way forward to create a more feasible, effective, and sustainable Middle East multilateral security forum in the years to come.
Order from Ashes
This report is part of “Order from Ashes: New Foundations for Security in the Middle East,” a multiyear TCF project supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Previous Attempts at Regional Security Cooperation
Any analysis of future security cooperation in the Middle East must keep in mind a central point: the modern Middle East has never been able to develop an enduring multilateral regional security framework. The dominant security architecture of the region has depended on bilateral security arrangements with outside powers and a balance of power among regional antagonists with zero-sum mindsets. In contrast to collective security efforts, however, cooperative security initiatives in the region have had a more promising track record, though they too ultimately have been unsustainable.
A Competitive, Zero-Sum Security Environment
Since World War II, the Middle East regional system has been highly competitive, with Iran, Arab powers (namely Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Syria), and other non-Arab states (Israel and Turkey) all struggling for regional primacy. This competition has persisted through shifting balances and alliances.1 For decades, patrons from outside the region have backed their regional rivals with military assistance and political support to ensure that no single state or ideological bloc could dominate the region and its vast energy resources. During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union competed for regional influence in the context of their global power competition. The United States relied on competitive bilateral strategies such as “pillars” (Iran and Saudi Arabia in the 1970s, Egypt and Iraq in the 1980s) or “containment” (of both Iran and Iraq in the 1990s) to maintain regional balance and a semblance of stability.
The U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 overturned the fundamental regional balance of power. The war dramatically increased the U.S. presence in the Middle East and paradoxically enhanced Iranian influence, strengthening non-Arab states in the regional system. After the Arab uprisings began in 2011, Gulf Arab states became more assertive, engaging in military interventions in Bahrain, Libya, and Yemen, and supporting rebel forces in Syria against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, an Iranian ally. Nonstate actors and militias are now playing an increasingly important role in these power plays among regional states, particularly Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, and Shia militia groups in Iraq. The war in Syria has had particularly catastrophic effects, having created a complex web of state and nonstate actors with competing interests while pitting Russia and the United States against each other on opposite sides of the conflict.
Growing concern about Iranian influence spreading in the midst of the regional turmoil has led to escalating conflicts and greater regional demands for American support. Indeed, regional leaders and experts often frame discussions about security cooperation with the United States as a way to contain and roll back Iranian influence. At the same time, Russia is relying on bilateral security relationships with Iran, Hezbollah, and Assad-controlled areas of Syria to maintain its foothold in the region and counter Western-backed powers and interests. Such proxy conflicts are not new, as competitive power dynamics have long defined the regional security system in the Middle East.
Attempts at Collective Security in the Region Have Failed
Given this competitive security environment, many previous attempts at security cooperation in the region fall into the collective security category, where cooperation is designed to create an alliance to counter a specific external threat. The formation of NATO in Europe to counter the Soviet challenge, where a threat to any member state is considered a threat to all, is perhaps the classic example of a successful collective security institution.
But such experiments in the Middle East have not fared well.2 Regionwide attempts, such as the Arab League’s efforts in the 1950s and 1960s to create a joint Arab military command, were undermined by the devastating defeat of Arab armies in the 1967 Arab-Israeli conflict. Competing agendas further prevented regional states from fully supporting Arab League calls in 2015 for an Arab force to fight terrorism after the rise of the Islamic State. The largely non-Arab regional security organizations formed in the 1950s to counter the Soviets, such as the Middle East Defence Organization and its successor, the Baghdad Pact, also failed, as regional states resisted efforts to link their security to Western agendas.3 Attempts at Arab security cooperation following the 1991 Gulf War, such as the Damascus Declaration, collapsed with similar speed.4
By contrast, subregional groupings such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), formed in 1981 by Gulf monarchies in the aftermath of the 1979 Iranian Revolution, have proven more durable. However, their ambitions for military integration and collective defense have fallen short because of their members’ varying agendas and interests.5 After the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq triggered new concern over Iran’s regional ambitions, the Arab states of the Gulf were particularly active in pursuing initiatives for regional security cooperation, but found that it was difficult to fully separate Gulf security concerns from the broader region. Recent fissures within the GCC, following both the Arab uprisings of 2011 and especially the 2017 rift with Qatar led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, make the possibility of a GCC-based multilateral security forum even more remote for the foreseeable future.6
NATO-led efforts to foster security cooperation with GCC states also emerged after the 2003 Iraq war through the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative. These efforts included advice on defense reform, along with joint exercises and training to support interoperability of Gulf forces, antiterrorism and nonproliferation cooperation, and disaster assistance.7 Like other Gulf collective security efforts, the initiative was designed with an eye toward countering Iran by bolstering GCC defense cooperation, largely on a bilateral basis. It was not designed to create a more enduring multilateral security structure for the Gulf.
The GCC’s joint Peninsula Shield Force was effective in bringing member states together to support the Bahraini government’s efforts to squash the popular uprising in 2011, though Kuwait and Oman refrained from sending troops. The Gulf states are more successful at rallying together during periods of high external threat. But beyond cooperating on security challenges viewed as threatening the survival of Gulf Arab monarchies, GCC military cooperation will be difficult to sustain or transform into a viable multilateral security bloc, particularly in the aftermath of the crisis with Qatar, which illustrated the council members’ varying threat perceptions and interests.8
This is not to say that the GCC is unsuccessful in rallying support for its members’ interests. The Saudi-led intervention in Yemen to confront the Houthis and forces backed by Ali Abdullah Saleh, for example, managed to garner the support of other GCC states despite previous fissures in the Libyan campaign, as well as differing political positions on the Muslim Brotherhood, particularly between Qatar and the Emirates. But even Saudi-Emirati cooperation in Yemen could weaken over time as differences on acceptable political endgames emerge.9 Concern about Saudi dominance within the GCC also impedes security cooperation.10 At the same time, member states like Oman (and to some extent Qatar and Kuwait) continue to view Iran with less alarm than do GCC states like Bahrain, the Emirates, and Saudi Arabia.
Moreover, despite the GCC’s increased military activism in recent years, the bloc ultimately relies on the United States for protection against external threats. The U.S. naval presence in Bahrain, land forces (primarily in Kuwait), and access to air bases in the Emirates, Oman, and Qatar remain vital aspects of regional defense.11 There is little indication that the GCC states will develop the Peninsula Shield Force beyond a symbolic show of commitment to mutual defense. GCC members are more likely to project power through individual military campaigns with outside support rather than through the development of an operational GCC-wide combined force.12
Security initiatives to counter the Islamic State and other terrorist groups are also unlikely to lead to sustainable multilateral cooperation. The Saudi-led coalition to fight the Islamic State, an initiative that some have called a “Muslim NATO,” includes forty-one countries with differing threat perceptions of terrorism and different priorities on how to fight it.13 For example, coalition partners like Pakistan have expressed reservations about using the alliance to confront Iran.14 However, Saudi military leaders have made it clear that the coalition would not be restricted to fighting the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, but also would confront militia forces like the Houthis that have ties to Iran. Hopes that U.S. president Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017 would jumpstart a new regional coalition against terrorism, and even the putative “Arab NATO,” were set back only a few weeks later when the Qatar crisis sparked further regional divisions.15
In sum, whether regionwide or subregional in scope, collective security alignments in the Middle East generally have proved short-lived because of prevailing mistrust, sovereignty concerns, diverging threat perceptions, and the lack of enduring overlapping interests based on norms or values.16 Despite the temptation to turn to collective security models, as in current U.S. efforts to confront Iran, past experiences suggest that such efforts are not likely to succeed and may only exacerbate regional security threats.17 Indeed, none of the previous and ongoing collective security efforts have prevented or addressed the endemic conflicts in the region.
Cooperative Security Experiments Have Qualified Potential
In contrast to collective security efforts, cooperative security initiatives in the region have had a more promising track record, though they too have ultimately proved unsustainable. Unlike collective security initiatives, cooperative security arrangements are not designed to form an exclusive alliance to counter a specified military threat. Instead, they are designed to be inclusive, building confidence and adherence to common norms and rules that can help reduce mistrust and prevent or at least manage unwanted conflict. Whereas collective security is about forming alliances of like-minded states to protect against external threats through military deterrence and containment measures, cooperative security can include engagement among both allies and adversaries and is based on reassurance measures. As a prominent study explains, “Cooperative security differs from the traditional idea of collective security much as preventive medicine differs from acute care. Cooperative security is designed to ensure that organized aggression cannot start or be prosecuted on any large scale. . . . Collective security is an arrangement for deterring aggression through military preparation and defeating it if it occurs.”18
A cooperative security model may be more feasible for a region like the Middle East where mistrust and the potential for conflict escalation are likely to remain high for the foreseeable future. Indeed, one of the most authoritative reports on regional security in the Middle East, involving an array of regional experts through an initiative organized by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) in the 1990s, found that “cooperative security is the only possible basis for a security regime in the Middle East” where the goal is to establish guiding principles of conduct and informal “political arrangements” rather than a formal legal institution or alliance.19
Two post–Cold War cooperative security initiatives are particularly noteworthy: the Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) working group active in the early 1990s and efforts to convene a conference on a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone (WMDFZ) in the Middle East in 2012. Though both these efforts ultimately collapsed, they provide important lessons for future attempts to build security cooperation in the Middle East.
ACRS was established in 1992 as one of five multilateral working groups under the umbrella of the Madrid Arab-Israeli peace process launched in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.20 The multilateral groups were designed to provide a regional process to complement bilateral Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, engaging the broader Arab world in talks with Israel on areas of common concern. In addition to regional security, other multilateral working groups addressed water, the environment, economic development, and refugees.21 Drawing on lessons from U.S.-Soviet arms control talks as well as the Conference for Security and Cooperation in Europe (or CSCE, which began with the Helsinki process in 1975, and evolved into the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe [OSCE] in 1994),22 the work of ACRS centered on creating confidence-building measures (CBMs) in two central “baskets”: conceptual and operational. The conceptual basket focused on creating general principles and norms to guide regional security. The operational basket focused on technical CBMs such as establishing a communications network and maritime cooperation, including agreements on search and rescue and the prevention of incidents at sea.23
ACRS accomplished more than many thought would be possible. Its early record even stood up well to the initial stages of multilateral security cooperation in Europe in the 1970s.24 Russia and the United States, former superpower rivals, co-chaired ACRS and established a working agenda among the fourteen participating regional parties.25 Although ACRS was established as an informal discussion forum, not a formal negotiation process, subsequent meetings went beyond learning lessons from the arms control experience in Europe to applying principles and cooperative regional security activities to the region.
The parties discussed and began implementing initial agreements. In addition to conceptual and operational activities in the areas of conflict prevention, maritime issues, and communication, ACRS also considered the exchange of relevant military information (including establishing thresholds for prenotification of certain military activities).26 The group held more than two dozen meetings in three years, including sessions in regional capitals and hubs like Amman, Antalya, Cairo, and Tunis. Arab states like Qatar hosted large Israeli delegations despite the absence of diplomatic relations. Even though the parties never reached agreement on a draft “Declaration of Principles and Statement of Intent on Arms Control and Regional Security,” they did begin to implement initiatives like the creation of regional security centers, and regional navies participated in demonstration exercises for agreements on incidents at sea and search and rescue.
Despite this progress, ACRS came to a halt in the fall of 1995. As in the case of the other multilateral working groups, setbacks in the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian peace process negatively affected ACRS. Arab leaders, facing anti-Israeli sentiment at home, were reluctant to move ahead of public sentiment on normalization with Israel in the absence of significant progress in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. The September 1993 Oslo Accords had significantly boosted support for multilateral working groups, but the assassination of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995, and the overall demise of the peace process starting in 1996 and concluding with the Second Intifada in the fall of 2000, gradually froze most formal regional cooperation efforts. That said, ACRS actually broke down before the general deterioration in Israeli-Palestinian relations, which suggests that even if domestic and regional political factors affected the climate of these talks, they alone cannot explain its ultimate demise.
The biggest impediment to ACRS’s continued work was the fundamentally different positions of Egypt and Israel within the process. Reflecting both strategic asymmetries in the region (where Israel is presumed to be the only state with nuclear weapons capability) and Egypt’s longstanding advocacy for global nonproliferation,27 Egypt consistently tried to steer the course of the discussions into the nuclear arena. Not surprisingly, Israel resisted such efforts, preferring to maintain a definition of arms control that included conventional capabilities and missile development. The Israelis also emphasized the confidence-building aspects of the working group as opposed to its arms control objectives, which were of paramount importance to the Egyptians. Moreover, to the great annoyance of Egypt, the multilateral process raised the importance of smaller Arab states like Jordan and Qatar. These states played important and active roles in ACRS, leading Egypt to perceive them as a challenge to its position as the regional leader on arms control and security issues.28 Egypt also worried that greater Israeli interaction with the broader region could enhance Israeli dominance, further challenging Egypt’s central role and influence in regional affairs.
ACRS also faced the problem that key strategic players in the region—including Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Syria—were absent from the process, which limited the group’s ability to address comprehensive security issues and to satisfactorily address the security concerns of the participating states. Power asymmetries and the exclusion of key strategic players are especially problematic for arms control processes in regions where the security dilemma and balance-of-power thinking are acute. Limiting regional participation also undercuts crisis management among adversaries, which is a critical element in cooperative security forums.
The lack of sustained American and international commitment to the process did nothing to alleviate these expected security dilemmas. The United States in particular viewed the multilateral discussions as a way to facilitate the bilateral peace process, and thus did not invest the attention and resources necessary to sustain the process for its own value after it was launched in Moscow in 1992. American policymakers viewed the bilateral Israeli-Palestinian peace process as far more critical than the multilateral talks, which were largely designed to entice Israeli participation at the 1991 Madrid Peace Conference and subsequently received high-level attention at the U.S. State Department or the White House. So despite the surprising progress of the only official regionwide security forum in the Middle East to date, the achievements of ACRS proved ephemeral, stymied by both strategic and political impediments.
After ACRS, the next major attempt to create a cooperative security process arose in response to pressure from Arab states to convene a conference to establish a WMDFZ for the Middle East. The WMDFZ concept—calling for the elimination of all nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as their delivery systems—has been part of regional security discussions for more than three decades. The WMDFZ proposal began in 1995, when in order to secure the agreement of Egypt and other Arab states for the indefinite extension of the NPT, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States sponsored a resolution promoting a WMDFZ in the Middle East and calling on NPT parties, especially the five recognized nuclear weapons states, to make efforts to establish such a zone. Because no progress was made on this resolution after 1995, Arab states pressed for concrete action at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. The “Final Document” at the 2010 Review Conference called for the UN secretary-general and the three cosponsors of the 1995 resolution (Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to convene a conference in 2012 on a WMDFZ and appoint a facilitator for the effort.29
Although establishing a zone requiring major disarmament measures may appear to be a remote possibility for the Middle East, arms control experts believe practical interim steps and security CBMs may be possible to advance a zone even if a verifiable treaty is at best a long-term prospect.30 Many international arms control analysts and regional experts hoped that a regional conference would reignite a regional security dialogue to fill the vacuum left by the collapsed ACRS process. But as in the case of ACRS, diverging regional views over the nuclear issue, particularly between Israel and Egypt, prevented the conference from taking place. And like ACRS, pressing for regional security cooperation took a back seat in U.S. diplomacy relative to other regional priorities, allowing parties like Israel to resist the WMDFZ conference with little consequence.31
The failure of the 2012 effort was not particularly surprising given the longstanding difference of views in the region toward a WMDFZ. As in the past, Israel continued to view its nuclear arsenal as a critical deterrent that ensured its survival, even if it has never officially acknowledged this widely reported capability.32 Israel has maintained a policy of opacity (amimut in Hebrew) since a 1969 secret agreement between Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Richard Nixon, wherein Israel agreed that it would not declare or test its nuclear capabilities while the United States would refrain from pressuring Israel to join international nonproliferation agreements. Israel has not been willing to negotiate or ultimately give up this deterrent and join the NPT as long as it perceives continued conventional and unconventional security threats from surrounding states, many of which it views as committed to its destruction.33 Arab states, by contrast, view Israel’s nuclear capabilities as an aggressive and unnecessary military capability, particularly given Israel’s overwhelming conventional superiority over its neighbors.34 From their perspective, calling for Israel to sign the NPT is critical not only to reinforce the universality of the NPT but also to move forward with regional peace and broader security cooperation.
Despite these fundamental gaps, the WMDFZ initiative persisted over the years because each side continued to find value in it for advancing different interests. For Israel, supporting a WMDFZ allowed it to present a good face to the international community and an alternative to the NPT, showing a willingness to address regional arms control issues while underscoring a logic of incrementalism where political progress and confidence-building precedes disarmament. For Egypt, championing the WMDFZ concept provided a mechanism to keep the focus on bolstering the NPT and pressure on Israel to join this treaty, as well as to address its proliferation concerns related to Iran and its neighboring Arab states.35 It is useful not merely because it advances Egypt’s own vision of regional arms control and its longstanding support for nonproliferation efforts and universal adherence to the NPT, but also because it has provided Egypt with a platform to exert its regional leadership position.
Yet even though all sides supported a WMDFZ in theory, fundamental differences remained on the sequencing and focus of regional security cooperation. As in ACRS, Israel preferred to keep regional security discussions focused on general CBMs before addressing nuclear issues, whereas countries like Egypt wanted to keep the pressure on Israel to first join the NPT and forego its nuclear capabilities before engaging in broader regional security discussions. Such gaps again prevented substantive progress, including the ability to convene the proposed 2012 conference. Nonetheless, the proposal to hold the conference did generate a number of productive unofficial meetings after 2010 involving Arab, Iranian, and Israeli experts, which brought new energy and attention to regional arms control and security issues.
In 2011, Jaakko Laajava, the Finnish under-secretary of state for foreign and security policy, was appointed as a facilitator for the proposed WMDFZ conference. His appointment launched a series of official consultations as he toured the region and listened to various perspectives on the zone concept, as well as wider regional security concerns.36 Such consultations were valuable because discussion of such issues had largely been on the back burner since the demise of ACRS in the mid-1990s. But the failure to convene the 2012 conference underscored that an NPT-driven process was unlikely to provide the appropriate framework for reviving sustained regional security cooperation.
Prior regional security initiatives provide critical lessons that can help improve the design and implementation of future initiatives, and may even lead to more successful outcomes.
Delink Regional Security Cooperation from Other Political Processes
Embedding regional security talks into the Arab-Israeli peace process in the early 1990s held substantive progress hostage to the vicissitudes of that diplomacy. As a result, longstanding Egyptian-Israeli differences on regional security and disarmament were able to derail the initiative. Two decades later, it proved equally difficult to reestablish a regional security dialogue under the umbrella of the NPT. An NPT-based process was a nonstarter for Israelis, because in their view it inherently biased the agenda toward nuclear issues at the expense of other components of conventional and unconventional regional arms control. But for states like Egypt, Israeli adherence to the NPT remains a longstanding concern. Consequently, to avoid the politically polarizing frameworks of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and the NPT, a new regional security forum should avoid being under the aegis of either.37 A new effort will need to address a range of regional security threat perceptions and CBMs, as occurred in ACRS, but it need not be directly linked to official bilateral peacemaking, as occurred after Madrid.38
Certainly, a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would significantly boost regional stability. It would open the doors for increased political, economic, and even security cooperation between Israel and the Arab region. With normalization, Israel would be more likely to consider regional arms control measures and possibly consider more flexible positions on addressing its nuclear posture and capabilities. And a resolution to the conflict would remove a key rallying call for extremist groups throughout the region to attack Israel, lowering the risks for destructive military conflicts between Israel and its neighbors. But many current regional security challenges have little to do with Arab-Israeli diplomacy. Many regional security risks—including proliferation, terrorism, migration, climate change, and pandemics—demand regional discussions and solutions and do not need to be linked to progress (or lack thereof) on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. The reduced importance of the Arab-Israeli conflict for at least regional leaders, though not necessarily regional public opinion, may make it possible to delink peace talks from future regional security discussions in a way that it was not in the past, particularly if powers from outside the region are involved and provide some political cover. Moreover, Egypt’s growing interest in counterterrorism cooperation with Israel, particularly as it faces severe threats from militant groups in the Sinai, may reduce its resistance to including Israel in future regional security dialogues even if differences over the nuclear issue remain unresolved.
At the same time, any future regional security dialogue cannot completely ignore the issue of nuclear weapons and other WMDs, particularly as proliferation risks have only grown in recent years and chemical weapons use in Syria has brought the issue to the forefront of regional and global concern. Although the 2015 Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) addressed the Iranian nuclear challenge for the foreseeable future, it also sparked regional anxiety about Iran’s nonnuclear activities and questions about Iran’s future nuclear ambitions beyond the sunset of the agreement in ten to fifteen years. It also provided a new rationale for addressing the goal of a WMDFZ in the region.39 A forum distinct from the NPT would be the optimal place to address such regional concerns and establish some preliminary CBMs, not only among Iran and neighboring Arab states but also including Israel. If a future regional security forum is clearly distinct from the NPT, Israel may be more open to engaging in nuclear CBMs that, even if they do not lead to demands that Israel forego its nuclear option, could at least reduce the salience of nuclear capabilities in regional planning.40
To take one possible example, as concerns persist after the Iran nuclear deal over the diversion of peaceful nuclear programs into military uses, nuclear CBMs could focus on nuclear safety issues. Security dialogues could encourage regional states to be open to fissile material inventories, regional or partial application of safeguards on fissile material, and support for efforts to establish a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would bar the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium.41 And of course, the long-term goal of establishing a WMDFZ would certainly remain a topic for regional discussion, even if the agenda includes security challenges beyond WMD proliferation concerns. The current regional climate may be too conflict-ridden to initiate this type of security dialogue, but delinking such a process from both Arab-Israeli diplomacy and the NPT will strengthen the prospects that future initiatives could stand a chance if and when a new opportunity emerges to launch them.
Leave Membership Open and Inclusive
As discussed above, for regional actors the traditional default option for security cooperation has been short-term alliances, bilateral and sometimes multilateral, to address a specific threat. This trend has appeared most recently in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal, where the United States and its regional partners (both Israel and Arab countries) have focused on how to contain Iran through enhanced and largely bilateral security cooperation rather than on how to leverage the agreement to forge a multilateral security arrangement that includes Iran.42 GCC states are particularly active in focusing on the Iranian threat and have expanded security cooperation with the United States to enhance their military capabilities.43
As terrorism threats and the Syrian conflict demonstrate, however, many security challenges affect every part of the region, with global spillover effects. Subregional forums like the GCC can serve particular objectives, in this case for the Arab states of the Gulf, but they cannot replace the need for a security forum involving other key states in the Levant and North Africa.44 The non-Arab regional powers—Iran, Israel, and Turkey—all play active roles in regional conflicts as well, and ultimately will need to be included in any efforts to address security issues. As past efforts have demonstrated, excluding key actors like Iran or Iraq from regional security forums can increase security competition and conflict.
Of course, subregional and ad hoc cooperation among a limited number of regional parties will continue as states periodically find common cause in a region of ever-shifting alliances. New proposals to find common ground among a limited number of key regional “pillars,” like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, may help address some aspects of regional stability if cooperation is successful.45 But over time, interests, power, and socioeconomic conditions are likely to change in ways that may make enduring coordination difficult. Even if the issues under discussion are sufficiently broad and focus on “megatrends, such as trade, water, energy, food, climate, and counterterrorism,” it would be difficult to restrict discussion of such issues to only a few countries—even if the door is left open to broader participation in the future.46 Instead, it may be more productive to design a new cooperative security process with more inclusive membership from the outset, even if some member states initially refuse to join. Limiting membership from the start inevitably will make the excluded actors suspicious of the security coordination and increase incentives to play spoiler roles. Inclusive membership is well-advised for any future efforts to restart a serious regional security forum.
View Security Broadly
There are practical reasons to start with “easier” issues for security cooperation while avoiding contentious topics like political conflicts or nuclear arms control. For one, it will be less risky for states to agree to join a security forum if the issues on the agenda do not appear to threaten their national interests; previous experience has shown that linkage to political processes can upset progress. Because cooperative security is based on building confidence among adversaries who do not trust each other, starting with less contentious topics can help build relationships that can set the ground for discussion of more difficult topics down the road. Moreover, the regional instability created by the Syrian refugee and displacement crisis shows that security, properly understood, must encompass a broader range of topics than military capabilities and arms control. Assuming a wider definition of security will be critical to identifying challenges that are both strategically important and most likely to generate common ground in a new security forum.
Potential security forum topics could include some of the issues covered in the Madrid multilateral peace process, but participants will need to go beyond that process’s original five issue areas to address the region’s current challenges, including water and food security, climate change and sustainable development, refugees and migration, narcotics trafficking, piracy and maritime security, earthquakes and disaster relief, and regional health. Terrorism will be a more problematic question to address because of differing perceptions of the threat. Although some current efforts to build regional security cooperation focus on countering terrorism and extremism—such as the anti–Islamic State coalition—it would be advisable to first focus on other, potentially less-divisive common areas of regional threat perceptions to ensure the cooperation is more sustainable.
Set Realistic Goals
Expectations that a new security forum in the Middle East will help end regional conflicts like those in Syria or Yemen are sure to disappoint. The forum is needed to lay the groundwork for a process that can, over time, manage and reduce the destructiveness of regional conflicts that cannot be avoided and perhaps even prevent new conflicts from emerging. But a new security forum would not end all conflict or produce binding agreements. It is important to value the process of cooperation itself and the importance of establishing security dialogues, rather than to attempt to produce a specific outcome or agreement.
This is difficult enough to do in relatively stable regions like Europe, so ambitions for security cooperation in the Middle East need to be tempered with realistic understandings of what can be accomplished. It will be important to be patient. Confidence-building in the Middle East is likely to be incremental and proceed in fits and starts. Participants will need to be conditioned to see the value of cooperation and avoid declaring failure in what will be a lengthy, open-ended process.
Attract High-Level Support from Outside the Region
Regional actors will need to see a value in participating in a new regional security forum for their own interests, and ultimately “own” the process to maintain its legitimacy among regional publics. But past experience underscores how difficult it is to create and most critically to sustain cooperation without the support and high-level attention of powerful external actors, particularly the United States. And because extraregional powers, especially Russia and the United States, are directly involved in regional conflicts, they will need to be part of any regional security dialogues. They are already de facto regional players.
The support of other global powers with strong interests in the region, such as China, France, Germany, Japan, and the United Kingdom also will be important for political, financial, and technical assistance. Left to their own devices, regional rivals are unlikely to forge ahead with durable cooperative security forums without the convening power, political cover, and financial support of such extraregional actors.
At the same time, a new security forum cannot emerge as a new playing field for competition between Russia and the United States, so extraregional participation will need to be multilateral and cooperative. Moreover, rather than having only extraregional chairs of various working groups, a new process could give regional actors a greater stake in the effort by creating regional cochairs to lead discussions on particular issue areas. The key challenge will be for extraregional powers like China, the European Union, Russia, and the United States to play a constructive role in the process and sustain interest and support at the highest political levels.
Conclusion: The Way Forward
In the wake of the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, attention again turned to the possibility of building new regional security structures. As in the past, the OSCE has emerged as a possible foundation for a new regional security architecture.47 To be sure, aspects of this model proved successful in the Madrid and ACRS processes, particularly that of separating security cooperation into conceptual and operational baskets to create some concrete accomplishments. The incremental CBM approach also worked well and helped build trust and personal relationships among former adversaries. Yet starting regional security cooperation with an OSCE-type structure could demand more institutionalization than the region is ready for at this juncture. Ongoing military conflicts not only have increased mistrust among regional powers like Iran and Saudi Arabia, but also have led to weak and failing states, where central authority is eroding if not absent. In contrast, the CSCE emerged out of a context of détente between the Soviets and the United States in the early 1970s, to expand dialogue between the East and West among relatively stable states. Even then, it took fifteen years for the CSCE to move to an institutionalized stage (and become the OSCE) that more strongly enforced regional norms—which was only possible with the decline of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.48
With political and military conflict still pervasive throughout the Middle East, less formal models for regional security cooperation, as exist in Asia, might be more appropriate.49 In 1994, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) established the ASEAN Regional Forum to expand the association’s agenda to the security realm and widen its membership to the larger Asia-Pacific region. Although the forum introduced Western concepts such as confidence-building, arms control, transparency, and verification into regional discussions, regional actors rejected models based on the OSCE, which were perceived as too Western and institutionalized. Instead, the “ASEAN way” suggested a more indigenous and informal process that legitimized regional cooperation and gave it a local brand.50 The ASEAN Regional Forum also helped organize Track Two dialogues—unofficial diplomacy that involves regional experts who are able to discuss new ideas and solutions that can influence official policymakers. Such dialogues led to the creation of the Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia Pacific to help channel new ideas more efficiently into official decision-making. This could be a useful example for the Middle East, where many Track Two dialogues have emerged since the early 1990s.51
Still, the ASEAN Regional Forum model could face some difficulties in the Middle East. The region has minimal intraregional trade, and consequently it lacks the economic underpinnings that have made ASEAN an effective forum. Although Southeast Asia faces territorial disputes and ethnic and religious strife, such divisions are not nearly as intense and intractable as those in the Middle East. And perhaps most critically, all ten ASEAN nations have acceded to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone, demonstrating a level of consensus on regional security that does not yet exist in the Middle East.
Other regions with long histories of conflict and lingering political rivalries, like South Asia, have managed to establish wide-ranging regional security forums, such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Despite its limitations, the SAARC has been an important arena for fostering regional cooperation, focusing on less-contentious regional challenges while avoiding bilateral political disputes.52 This model might have more relevance to the Middle East, where there is a critical need to establish a forum that will be flexible and inclusive enough to address both regionwide and subregional issues, as well as broader regional security concerns distinct from political conflicts. A Middle Eastern association for regional cooperation could, for example, help organize the multiple and often overlapping Track Two dialogues that are already under way. These dialogues address regional security issues, and may provide better ideas and solutions than are possible in official forums. Such a broad regional security forum can help build confidence among regional parties through cooperation on less contentious issues of common concern, such as piracy, water scarcity, pandemics, or displacement challenges. Building confidence incrementally through cooperation on such issues could proceed in tandem with, and help bolster, regional discussion of the more contentious nonproliferation and disarmament agenda. A WMDFZ working group could be possible within such a forum.
It is clear that the Middle East needs a new regional arrangement to enhance the security of all participating states and prevent unwanted conflict. What is not clear, however, is whether there is sufficient political support inside or outside the region to invest in such a process. The days of the United States launching a major initiative with Russian cosponsorship are likely over. But joint U.S., Russian, European, and Chinese efforts to jumpstart less formal multilateral dialogues by leveraging and better organizing existing Track Two discussions may be possible. All of these external powers have participated in Track Two discussions, which have demonstrated the value of cooperating on issues of common concern even (or in fact especially) among adversaries. Most of the Middle Eastern Track Two discussions underway also include participants from all regional states, providing a foundation for a regionwide forum on different security topics. Even though regional leaders are not always aware of such dialogues or may not see value in them, many of the discussions involve participants who have strong connections to regional governments and have disseminated some of the ideas from these discussions into official negotiation processes. Track Two dialogues in the region have demonstrated that it is possible to find areas of common ground even if core conflicts are not resolved. A cadre of Middle East experts who have participated in Track Two meetings, now numbering in the thousands, can help advocate for the value of such dialogues with key decision-makers in their countries and help increase official support for the launching of a new initiative.
There are plenty of reasons for continued skepticism that a new cooperative regional security forum would now be possible. Previously existing obstacles are still very much at play today, and arguably are worse. Regional leaders continue to view military force as critical to achieving national security objectives. Arms sales are escalating as regional competition increases, particularly between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Most security officials and experts hold negative views of arms control or any limits on military power that they view as an infringement on their states’ sovereignty and deterrence capabilities. Threat perceptions are particularly acute in the wake of the Iran nuclear deal, which may have addressed Iran’s nuclear capabilities by halting its ability to weaponize its program for the foreseeable future, but also reinforced rising concerns about Tehran’s regional ambitions.
At the same time, the devastating wars in the region illustrate the limits of military solutions to regional conflicts. Syrian government chemical weapons attacks, barrel bombing of civilians, and unprecedented displacement underscore the horrors of war and the need for dialogue that might help prevent or at least ameliorate the destructiveness of conflicts. As regional leaders come to recognize the need to address difficult socioeconomic pressures at home to meet the demands of their rising youth populations, they may become more open to alternatives that favor diplomacy over conflict. Cooperative security will take time to develop, but with the appropriate structures and political investment, leaders may again see its value. It is not naïve to think through how such processes might be attempted again—it is vital.
- For a classic study on traditional balance-of-power dynamics among regional states, see Stephen Walt, The Origins of Alliances (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1990). For a detailed overview of Middle Eastern balancing dynamics prior to the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, see James A. Russell, “Regional Threats and Security Strategy: The Troubling Case of Today’s Middle East,” Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, November 2007, https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pubs/display.cfm?pubID=814. For more recent accounts of Middle East power balancing dynamics, see F. Gregory Gause III, “Beyond Sectarianism: The New Middle East Cold War,” Brookings Doha Center Analysis Paper no. 11, July 2014, https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/English-PDF-1.pdf.
- On collective security attempts in the region and their failures, see Florence Gaub, “An Arab NATO in the Making? Middle Eastern Military Cooperation Since 2011,” The Letort Papers, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, September 2016, https://ssi.armywarcollege.edu/pdffiles/PUB1329.pdf.
- See Gaub, “An Arab NATO,” 4.
- This proposal, initiated in March 1991, called for Egypt and Syria to provide the troops, and the GCC states the finances for a Gulf Arab security force. For an account of the demise of the Damascus Declaration, see Bruce Maddy-Weitzman and Joseph Kostiner, “The Damascus Declaration: An Arab Attempt at Regional Security,” in Regional Security Regimes: Israel and Its Neighbors, ed. Efraim Inbar (Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1995), 107–25.
- For an assessment of the levels of security, political, and economic cooperation within the GCC, see Jeffrey Martini, Becca Wasser, Dalia Dassa Kaye, Daniel Egel, and Cordaye Ogletree, The Outlook for Arab Gulf Cooperation (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, 2016), http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR1429.html.
- For arguments favoring Gulf security options, see Michael D. Yaffe, “The Gulf and a New Middle East Security System,” Middle East Policy 11, no. 3 (2004): 118–30. Also see Joseph McMillan, Richard Sokolsky, and Andrew C. Winner, “Toward a New Regional Security Architecture,” Washington Quarterly 26, no. 3 (2003): 161–75. Charles Kupchan also advocated for using the GCC as base for developing regional security cooperation in Kupchan, “Strengthen Regional Cooperation,” Democracy: A Journal of Ideas 6 (Fall 2007), http://democracyjournal.org/magazine/6/strengthen-regional-cooperation/. A 2004 workshop in Dubai, sponsored by the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis and the Stanley Foundation, focused on the question of alternative security frameworks for Gulf security. Several workshop papers were published in “Special Issue: Alternative Strategies for Gulf Security,” Middle East Policy 11, no. 3 (Fall 2004). The Gulf Research Center also sponsored research and analysis on multilateral security structures, particularly on the proposal to create a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone (WMDFZ) in the Gulf. See, for example, Peter Jones, A Gulf WMD Free Zone within a Broader Gulf and Middle East Security Architecture (Dubai, United Arab Emirates: Gulf Research Center, 2005).
- For more details on the initiative, see the NATO website, accessed September 26, 2017, www.nato.int/.
- Saudi Arabia and the Emirates led an effort in early June 2017 to isolate Qatar by cutting diplomatic and economic relations, accusing Doha of supporting terrorism. Qatar denied the allegations, seeing the assault as punishment for its differing regional policy position on issues like the Muslim Brotherhood and Iran. For an overview of the underlying forces driving the 2017 GCC rift and its consequences, see “Pressuring Qatar: What Happens in the Gulf Doesn’t Stay in the Gulf,” International Crisis Group, July 20, 2017, https://www.crisisgroup.org/middle-east-north-africa/gulf-and-arabian-peninsula/qatar/pressuring-qatar-what-happens-gulf-doesnt-stay-gulf-1.
- On intra-GCC differences in threat perceptions and political positions, see Martini et al., The Outlook for Arab Gulf Cooperation.
- On conditions that exacerbate intraregional rivalries and concerns about Saudi dominance within the GCC, see Martini et al., The Outlook for Arab Gulf Cooperation, especially 10-11.
- Ibid., 8.
- Ibid., 37.
- Saeed Shah and Margherita Stancati, “Saudi-Led Antiterror Coalition Sharpens Its Focus,” Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/saudi-led-antiterror-coalition-sharpens-its-focus-1492532875.
- Shah and Stancati, “Saudi-Led Antiterror Coalition.”
- See Joe Gould, “Qatar Rift Sets Back Trump’s ‘Arab NATO,’” Defense News, June 6, 2017, http://www.defensenews.com/global/2017/06/06/qatar-rift-sets-back-trump-s-arab-nato/.
- For a description and explanation of the failures and weaknesses of previous Arab security arrangements, see Joseph A. Kechichian, “Security Efforts in the Arab World: A Brief Examination of Four Regional Organizations,” RAND Corporation, 1994, https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/notes/2007/N3570.pdf. For an analysis of challenges to forming a Gulf regional security system, see Graham E. Fuller, “Security in the Persian Gulf: Historic Problems and Principles for a Regional Collective Regime,” working draft, RAND Corporation, February 1992.
- On the limitations of drawing on competitive balancing models to contain Iran, see Dalia Dassa Kaye and Eric Lorber, “Containing Iran: What Does It Mean?,” Middle East Policy 19, no. 1 (2012): 51–63.
- See Janne Nolan, ed., Global Engagement: Cooperation and Security in the 21st Century (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1994), 5.
- See SIPRI, Towards a Regional Security Regime for the Middle East: Issues and Options (Stockholm: SIPRI Middle East Expert Group, October 2011), vii, https://www.sipri.org/publications/2011/towards-regional-security-regime-middle-east-issues-and-options.
- On ACRS, see Dalia Dassa Kaye, “Regional Security Cooperation,” chap. 4 in Beyond The Handshake: Multilateral Cooperation in the Arab-Israeli Peace Process, 1991–1996 (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), 76–109; “Middle East Peace Process Arms Control and Regional Security Working Group,” U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, July 21, 2001; Nabil Fahmy, “Special Comment,” United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research, Disarmament Forum 2 (2001): 3–5; Emily Landau, “Egypt and Israel in ACRS: Bilateral Concerns in a Regional Arms Control Process,” memorandum 59, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, 2001; and Bruce W. Jentleson, “The Middle East Arms Control and Regional Security (ACRS) Talks: Progress, Problems, and Prospects,” Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation (IGCC) Policy Paper 26, University of California IGCC, 1996.
- See Kaye, Beyond the Handshake.
- For the applicability of a Helskini process model to the Middle East, see Michael McFaul, Abbas Milani, and Larry Diamond, “A Win-Win U.S. Strategy for Dealing with Iran,” Washington Quarterly 30, no. 1 (2007): 121–38; and Michael McFaul, “A Helsinki Process for the Middle East,” Democracy: A Journal of Ideas 8 (Spring 2008), http://democracyjournal.org/magazine/8/a-helsinki-process-for-the-middle-east/.
- On the advantages of maritime cooperation efforts in the Middle East, see David Griffiths, “Maritime Aspects of Arms Control and Security Improvement in the Middle East,” IGCC Policy Paper 56 (June 2000), http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1622666f.
- See Bruce W. Jentleson and Dalia Dassa Kaye, “Security Status: Explaining Regional Security Cooperation and Its Limits in the Middle East,” Security Studies 8, no. 1 (1998): 204–38.
- The regional participants in the ACRS Working Group included the key parties involved in the bilateral peace process (Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinians), the GCC member states (Bahrain, the Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar), and the states of the Maghreb (western North Africa—Algeria, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia).
- For further details on the ACRS record, see Jentleson and Kaye. “Security Status,” particularly 214–21.
- Since 1973, the Egyptians have been among the leaders in raising the nuclear issue in the international community, introducing annual resolutions at the United Nations urging the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East (the Egyptians signed the NPT in 1981).
- For further elaboration of this argument, see Jentleson and Kaye, “Security Status.”
- See “Final Document,” 2010 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Vol. 1 (New York: United Nations, 2010), http://www.un.org/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=NPT/CONF.2010/50%20(VOL.I). For more details on the origins of the conference proposal, see Mark Fitzpatrick, “Towards a More Secure and WMD-Free Middle East,” United Nations Association of the UK, May 2012, 6, http://www.una.org.uk/pdfs/Towards%20a%20more%20secure%20and%20WMD-free%20Middle%20East%20-%20Mark%20Fitzpatrick.pdf; and Benjamin Hautecouverture and Raphaëlle Mathiot, “A Zone Free of WMD and Means of Delivery in the Middle East,” background paper, EU Non-Proliferation Consortium, particularly 12–14, http://www.nonproliferation.eu/web/documents/backgroundpapers/hautecouverture.pdf.
- For an overview of the zone concept, challenges of applying it the Middle East and practical interim steps that might be possible to advance it, see Fitzpatrick, “Towards a More Secure and WMD-Free Middle East.” For detailed discussions of concrete steps that would be necessary to establish and operationalize a WMDFZ in the Middle East, including issues related to geographic scope and verification, see Sara Kristine Eriksen and Linda Mari Holoien, “From Proliferation to Peace: Establishing a WMD-Free Zone in the Middle East,” Nonproliferation Review 17, no. 2 (2010): 281–99. Also see Claudia Baumgart and Harald Müller, “A Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East: A Pie in the Sky?,” Washington Quarterly 28, no. 1 (2004–5): 45–58.
- On the obstacles to convening the 2012 conference, see Dalia Dassa Kaye, “The Middle East WMD-Free Zone Conference: A Reset for Regional Arms Control?,” Nonproliferation Review 19, no. 3 (2012): 413–28.
- For an authoritative account of Israel’s nuclear posture, see Avner Cohen, The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel’s Bargain with the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012).
- For further elaboration of this position, see Emily B. Landau, “Placing WMD in Context,” Arms Control Today, August 2011, https://www.armscontrol.org/2011_09/Placing_WMD_in_Context%20%20%20%20.
- See Baumgart and Müller, “A Nuclear Weapons-Free Zone in the Middle East,” 48–49.
- Egypt has also raised the Israeli nuclear issue in international diplomatic forums beyond the NPT for more than three decades, including the UN Security Council, the UN General Assembly First Committee, the UN General Assembly, and the International Atomic Energy Agency. See Shimon Stein, “Between Israel and Iran: Egypt and the 2010 NPT Review Conference,” in The Obama Vision and Nuclear Disarmament, ed. Emily B. Landau and Tamar Malz-Ginzburg, Institute for National Security Studies Memorandum 107 (Tel Aviv: Institute for National Security Studies, March 2011), 102.
- On the appointment and activities of the facilitator, see Bernd W. Kubbig, Lisa Weis, Sophia Wenzel, and Fionn Harnischfeger, “Thank You, Mr. Facilitator!,” Academic Peace Orchestra Middle East Policy Brief 49/50, August 2016, http://academicpeaceorchestra.com/?p=policybriefs.
- This argument draws from Kaye, “The Middle East WMD-Free Zone Conference.” Peter Jones also argued for separating regional security discussions from the peace process in Jones, “The Arms Control and Regional Security Working Group: Still Relevant to the Middle East?,” background paper, EU Non-Proliferation Consortium, July 2011, http://www.nonproliferation.eu/web/documents/backgroundpapers/jones.pdf.
- Peter Jones, one of the leading authorities on regional security cooperation, similarly argues: “There are many security issues between, and within, states in the Middle East that involve the Arab-Israeli dispute peripherally, if at all” (Jones, “The Arms Control and Regional Security Working Group,” 4). On the benefits of separating regional security discussions from the peace process agenda, see also Kaye, Beyond the Handshake, 195.
- Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence head and ambassador to the United States, has argued that the nuclear agreement should be a “stepping stone” for the establishment of a Middle East WMDFZ. See “Senior Saudi Prince Says Trump Shouldn’t Scrap Iran Deal,” Reuters, November 11, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-election-saudi-iran-idUSKBN1361SS.
- On the notion of reducing the salience of nuclear capabilities as well as specific nuclear CBM ideas, see Yair Evron, “Israel and the Nonproliferation Regime,” in Landau and Malz-Ginzburg, The Obama Vision and Nuclear Disarmament, 119–26.
- See Evron, “Israel and the Nonproliferation Regime.”
- See, for example, Gerald F. Seib, “An Expert View: Accept the Deal but Move to Contain Iran,” Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2015, https://www.wsj.com/articles/an-expert-view-accept-the-deal-but-move-to-contain-iran-1437405727.
- See Kenneth Katzman, “Iran, Gulf Security, and U.S. Policy,” Congressional Research Service RL32048, December 29, 2015, http://susris.com/wp-content/uploads//2015/05/crs-iran-gulf-may-2015.pdf.
- The subregions identified in the 1998 SIPRI report included the Gulf, the “central area” (Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria) and the Maghreb states.
- For a strategy focused on creating a regional order by focusing on four key regional states—Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey—see Ross Harrison, “Defying Gravity: Working Toward a Regional Strategy for a Stable Middle East,” Middle East Institute Policy Paper Series, May 2015, http://www.mei.edu/content/article/defying-gravity-working-toward-regional-strategy-stable-middle-east.
- Harrison, “Defying Gravity,” 12.
- See, for example, James F. Jeffrey, “Organizing Success—the OSCE as a Middle Eastern Model,” Horizons 7 (Spring 2016), http://www.cirsd.org/en/horizons/horizons-spring-2016–issue-no-7/organizing-success—-the-osce-as-a-middle-eastern-model. Such proposals are not new; in fact, the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty called for the creation of a Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) in the Middle East—a Conference on Security and Cooperation in the Middle East (CSCME). For a full list of previous proposals for a CSCE/OSCE in the Middle East (CSCME/OSCME), see Kaye, Beyond the Handshake, 292n4. For an overview of the relevance of the Helsinki process as a model for the Middle East, see Chen Kane and Egle Murauskaite, eds., Regional Security Dialogue in the Middle East: Changes, Challenges and Opportunities (Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2014).
- The CSCE Paris summit in 1990 led to permanent institutions and operational capacity; the organization formally changed its name from the CSCE to the OSCE in 1994. See the OSCE official site, http://www.osce.org/who/87.
- Some analysts suggest Asian models might work better in non-Western regions than the European experience of highly institutionalized regional cooperation. See, for example, Joseph McMillan, Richard Sokolsky, and Andrew C. Winner, “Towards a New Regional Security Architecture,” Washington Quarterly 26, no. 3 (2003): 161–75.
- See Amitav Acharya, “Culture, Security, Multilateralism: The ‘ASEAN Way’ and Regional Order,” Contemporary Security Policy 19, no. 1 (1998): 55–84.
- Although some of these dialogues receive government funding, many are sponsored by nongovernmental organizations or academic and other nonprofit institutions. In the Middle East, participants from throughout the region (Arab countries, Iran, and Israel) attend in addition to Americans and other extraregional actors, often Europeans or Canadian). For further details about regional Track Two dialogues, see Dalia Dassa Kaye, Talking to the Enemy: Track Two Regional Security Dialogues in the Middle East and South Asia (Santa Monica, Calif.: RAND Corporation, 2007). See also Dalia Dassa Kaye, “Track Two Diplomacy and Regional Security in the Middle East,” International Negotiation 6, no. 1 (2001): 49–77.
- For a relatively positive assessment of SAARC’s value, see P. R. Chari, “Towards a New Paradigm for National Security,” in Perspectives on National Security in South Asia, ed. P. R. Chari (New Delhi: Manohar Publishers, 1999), 457–58.