The United States has been lobbying allies to include
Middle East countries in a key NATO program.
U.S. officials said the Bush administration has approved a proposal for
the inclusion of up to six Middle East states in the Partnership for Peace
program. Created in 1994, PfP has been used to increase NATO's ties to
non-Western allies and bring them into the alliance.
Under the proposal, the United States intends to include the following
Middle East states in PfP: Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania,
Morocco and Tunisia. The proposal, approved by Turkey, will be submitted to
the NATO summit in Istanbul in June 2004.
PfP has been joined by 30 countries, three of whom have since become
members of the alliance. NATO has tried to help PfP members improve
transparency in defense planning and budgeting, bolster democratic control
of their militaries and equip and train these countries to serve NATO
Officials said the Middle East states would not have all of the
privileges afforded to states under the PfP program. Instead, the United
States has proposed a modified version of the PfP that takes into account
the lack of democracy and civil rights in some of the Arab League states.
But PfP would establish formal military training programs with countries
throughout the Middle East.
"The strategic focus of NATO's efforts in the first half of the 21st
Century will be the Greater Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan, the
Mediterranean, and the Israeli-Palestinian issue," Sen. Chuck Hagel, the
U.S. representative to NATO's 2004 Security Seminar in Brussels, said on
Jan. 23. "NATO should expand and deepen its partnership with the countries
of the Mediterranean."
So far, NATO has held a dialogue with six Middle East states that has
avoided classified issues. The dialogue has been deemed as largely
unsuccessful as discussions have often pitted Arab states against Israel on
such issues as Israel's purported nuclear weapons arsenal and the
The United States has proposed that Middle East states expand their
naval cooperation with NATO. Officials said NATO could increase regional
naval missions in an effort to halt Islamic insurgency operations, the
trafficking of illegal drugs and laborers as well as the capture of weapons
of mass destruction shipments.
Officials said North African states such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia
want to expand security cooperation with the United States and NATO. They
said this could include intelligence gathering on Islamic insurgency groups
that also threaten Europe.
In his address to the seminar, Hagel also called for a NATO role to
achieve an Israeli-Palestinian settlement. He said a NATO peace-keeping
mission might be recruited to ensure that a future Palestinian state would
not become an enemy of Israel or the West.
"The day may come when NATO troops monitor the birth of a Palestinian
state," Hagel said. "NATO is the only institution with the credibility and
capability to undertake such a critical mission. The time is not yet right
for this development, but I believe we must begin to move our thinking,
policies, and planning in that direction."