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Speech by HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal

His Royal Highness Prince El Hassan bin Talal

On: The Euro-Atlantic and the Middle East

20 November, 2003

“It is a pleasure for me to be today with such an eminent group to discuss the Middle East.

The main object of the European-Atlantic Group, according to your website “is to promote closer cooperation between European and Atlantic countries by providing a regular forum in Britain for informed discussion of their problems and possibilities for better economic, strategic and political cooperation with each other and with the rest of the world”.

In the past, my part of the world was mostly referred to as the Middle East and sometimes the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

Post-September 11, post-Iraq, we increasingly hear about the ‘wider’ Middle East and the Greater Middle East.

The wider Middle East is defined by some analysts as North Africa, Arabia, Israel and Iran.  The Greater Middle East covers the same region in addition to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Today, and for the purpose of our discussion, I think it is extremely important to ask the following question:

Can either the United States or Europe by itself “fix” the Middle East? 

This is regardless of whether we are talking about the narrower Middle East, or the wider and Greater Middle East.

The point is not whether multilateralism is dead, or if the transatlantic rift is getting serious and the NATO allies drifting apart,  or are we going through another of the periodic “terminal” crises that have affected the alliance from Suez to Vietnam and beyond.  Some observers even fear that the inclusion, in the new EU Constitution, of a mutual defence clause, could impair NATO’s position as the ultimate guarantor of security in Europe.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright once said that multilateralism is not just nice, but smart.

So the question becomes whether we can all be smart and work together for a better Middle East.  By all, I mean both sides of the Atlantic as well as the nations of the Middle East.  A hub and spokes approach with the Alliance won’t do.

It is important to remember that the Alliance succeeded in Europe because it was an alliance based on the full membership of Western Europe.  NATO was not a force from the outside providing a security umbrella for Europe in “partnership” or “association” with European nations.

Therefore, the question that we face today is how can the alliance or any of its members have a successful long-term presence in the Middle East without the full membership of Middle Eastern states?

I am not talking merely about military alliances.  Successful transatlantic partnership during the cold war was based on the twin pillars of NATO and a prosperous Western Europe.  Successful alliance in the military, hard security field requires triumph in the social and economic soft security front.

During the cold war, the economies of the Middle East were sustained by oil revenues and aid.  Today, these palliatives no longer work.  The real answer is a process for security and cooperation throughout the Middle East.

Currently the Middle East exists in the shadow of three sets of wars:  war in Iraq, the war on terror and the war between Israel and the Palestinians.  A fourth crisis overshadows all.  That is the clash about governance within Middle Eastern states.

Much of the current confusion about the Middle East stems from attempts to conflate these crises into one big bundle or mishmash.  This quandary or hotchpotch of the Greater Middle East becomes the new danger zone from which threats arise.  Based on such reasoning, then the alliance will have to move “out of area” to this new frontier.

This means that the geostrategic centre of interest for NATO in future has to be the so-called greater Middle East.  Though the centre of gravity for the last fifty years for the alliance has been Europe, NATO’s future is East and South – towards Central and South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

According to that thinking, the alliance has to redeploy conceptually and materially to that area.  It has to be put on the front lines where the problems are.  This is in line with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s announcement that the size and shape of the “US footprint”, or deployment posture, in the world will evolve to reflect new security requirements of the 21st Century.

But it is important to remind ourselves that it is widely recognised that global security requires more than that.  The war on terrorism cannot be won only by military means.  A consensus has been emerging, even prior to September 11, on the need to deal with the standing global soft security agenda of poverty and environmental degradation.  Steps in that direction include:

  • The Millennium Development Goals, September 2000
  • The Doha Declaration, October 2001
  • The Monterrey Consensus, March 2002
  • The Johannesburg Plan of Implementation, September 2002

Both sides of the Atlantic play an important role in all these efforts.  But winning the war on poverty and environmental degradation requires the same energy and leadership that is being mobilised in the military alliance.  A parallel deployment posture in terms of the size and shape of the “humanitarian footprint” of the West is necessary to win the war in the ‘soft security’ front, not only in the greater Middle East, but globally.

An overarching framework is needed for effective leadership of the world economy.  Calls for creating a G2 between the European Union and the United States have recently been made.  Others have proposed a G3 instead, to include the EU, the US and the G22 of developing countries of Cancun.

If the greater Middle East is to overcome its long-standing problems and achieve prosperity and democracy, then the G2 must coordinate their economic as well as their security policies.  A fractured Europe will not do.

NATO analysts have called on Europe to increase its defence spending.  The United States’ and Europe’s military expenditure currently stands at more than $500 billion annually.  About two thirds of this sum is covered by the US.  But NATO planners would like to see European countries spend much more on military affairs by removing the budgetary “caps” placed on such expenditures.

In contrast, ODA (Overseas Development Assistance) from all developed nations stands at about $50 billion annually, or less than 10% of the military expenditure of the United States and Europe alone.  I hope that the evolving ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) will get its priorities right.  A myopic economic and military policy can easily swell the swamps of terror rather than drain them.

In talking about the global economy, we should remember that the advanced industrial democracies spend $320 billion annually as farm subsidies.  President Blaise Campaoré of Burkina Faso, whose cotton farmers have been heavily damaged by American cotton subsidies has said, “America wants us to comprehend the evil posed by violent anti-Western terrorism, and we do.  But we want you to equally concern yourself with the terror posed here by hunger and poverty, a form of terrorism your subsidies are aiding and abetting.  If we cannot sell our cotton we will die.”

There are many in the Middle East who consider that the EU is doing too little too late.  The Barcelona process is conceptually comprehensive, but geostrategically constrained.  It covers the Mediterranean, but stops at the Jordanian-Iraqi border.

The Donors convened last month in Madrid to raise funds for the reconstruction of Iraq.  But Madrid should be about the greater Middle East.  A democratic and prosperous Iraq cannot be built in isolation from its neighbours.  The Madrid of 1992 was about the Middle East.  Today, we have the Road Map, but not the New Middle East that we dreamt about in 1992.  How can we develop a Road Map for the entire Middle East?

Some may consider this question as too naïve or utopian.  In the Treaty of Peace between Jordan and Israel, there is a call for establishing a CSCME, a Conference for Security and Cooperation in the Middle East.

It is necessary to consider both a regional approach to a future Middle East security system, and sub-regional approaches where appropriate.  There are issues that are best dealt with sub-regionally, of course, but there are others which necessitate a region-wide dialogue on security.  Many issues require an approach which has elements of both.  Similarly, it will be necessary to develop regimes which recognise the need for different kinds of security mechanisms to co-exist and complement each other. 

While regional security systems, both broad and sub-regional, will likely be based on a notion of cooperative security, specific collective security arrangements will also exist, as will bilateral security arrangements.  The key is to develop an approach which allows these different layers and approaches to security to complement each other.  The experience of Europe (OSCE) and Asia (ASEAN) may provide useful points for further study.

A region-wide security system for the Middle East should be a goal of regional diplomacy.  But that does not mean that such a goal should be considered as being in contradiction to the development of a set of interlocking sub-regional security systems.  Rather, the two goals should complement and even assist each other.

There are issues that cut across the entire Middle East and must be dealt with as such.  The Israeli-Palestinian issue is primarily the concern of those two peoples and their immediate neighbours.  But experience has shown that it is also an issue that inflames the politics of the entire region.

Similarly, the question of a regional Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone (WMDFZ) requires a region-wide approach.  While conventional arms control arrangements may best be advanced on a sub-regional basis, it seems clear that countries which span the sub-regions have concerns about each other as regards WMD and delivery systems such as ballistic missiles.  Israel and Iran are examples.

Sub-regional activities and groupings would play an active role in dealing with those issues, and with those dimensions of broader issues, that were specifically related to their areas.  The whole would be held together by a degree of transparency between the two levels and by adherence to the principle of the geometry variable as regards ways of looking at issues and addressing them.  

If a cooperative security concept is the proper basis for the Regional Security Charter and its attendant Regime (as has been the case in every other region of the world that has developed a regional security regime), it is also recognised that different kinds of security arrangements will continue to exist.

The countries of the Mediterranean region are developing a relationship with the EU, the so-called Barcelona or Euro-Med process, which covers economic and political matters that affect security and is still evolving.  Meanwhile, collective security structures will exist, such as the GCC, which also has a relationship with the US, as do all of its members on a bilateral level.  Sub-regional confidence-building regimes may be developed, such as has been advocated by some in the Gulf.

As we look to the possible creation of a new round of regional security talks, sufficient imagination should be displayed to recognise that the required approach will be multifaceted.  It will include a variety of mechanisms and also an interlocking set of different kinds of security arrangements.  Most of all, it will have both region-wide and sub-regional aspects.  This may be cumbersome, but it reflects the real world in which we find ourselves.

According to Lord Ismay (Chief of Staff to Churchill during the Second World War, and Secretary General of NATO, 1952-1957), the transatlantic alliance was born of three necessities:  “Keeping the Russians out, the Germans down and the Americans in”.  What are the necessities for building a new alliance in the Middle East?

“Keeping terror out, rogue states under, and the West in”, will not be sufficient.

Multilateralism à la carte won’t do.  One day the choice is NATO.  If that does not work and the UN is discounted, then we opt for a coalition of the willing.  On other days, it is the Quartet (the US, the EU, Russia, the UN).  Afterwards there is talk of the G2 (the US plus the EU).  Others ask whether transatlantic can take any form in the ME other than NATO.

However wide the menu is, the answer lies in a positive focus on objectives.  Tony Blair recently said, it would be disastrous if Europe allowed anti-Americanism to dictate its policy.  Similarly, it would be disastrous if the Euro-Atlantic alliance allowed anti-terrorism to dictate its policy towards the Middle East.   

Thank you.”