NATO Opening Gulf Center in Kuwait

NATO is reportedly advancing plans to improve bilateral defense pacts with the GCC amid heightened tensions with Iran.

Gabe Kahn. ,

Kuwait City
Kuwait City
CC/Mohammad Alatar

Kuwait and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) are discussing plans to open a joint center in Kuwait City, a NATO official revealed to AFP on Monday.

The center – which would be the first of its kind in the Gulf – would help bolster relations and cooperation between Kuwait and NATO under the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI).

The initiative was launched at a NATO summit in Turkey in June 2004 in order to provide Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries bilateral security cooperation with NATO.

Kuwait joined the ICI in December 2004, followed by Bahrain and Qatar in February 2005 and the UAE in June 2005.

The discussions come amid heightened tensions between the GCC and Iran resulting from the so-called 'Arab Spring,' which has entered its ninth month. GCC countries have accused Tehran of stirring the pot of unrest in their countries using local Shiite populations as proxies.

GCC countries have joined their NATO counterparts – and Israel – in accusing Iran of seeking nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently issued a report citing "credible intelligence sources" saying Iran was actively pursuing nuclear technology with solely military applications.

Saudi Arabia has gone so far as to threaten to seek nuclear arms of its own if Iran does not stand down from its drive for nuclear weapons.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice president of the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday warned Iran that a strike on Israel would lead to Tehran’s final demise.

Tensions between Iran and the West went stratospheric last week after a mob of protesters in Tehran sacked the British embassy in a scene Western officials say was orchestrated by Iranian officials as a "dramatic piece of political theater."

Britain and several European allies closed their embassies in Tehran and ejected the Iranian envoys to their countries in response.

On Tuesday the British Telegraph reported General Mohammed Ali Jaafari, the commander of Iran’s Republican Guard, has initiated preparations for potential external strikes and covert attacks.

Analysts say Iran’s first move may be to close the Straits of Hormuz – a choke point for 40% of the world’s oil supplies – as a means of pressuring the West. Such a move would likely put Tehran on a collision course for war with NATO and the GCC.

Also on Tuesday, Kuwait’s Emir Shaikh Sabah Al Ahmad Al Jaber Al Sabah dissolved the parliament and ordered new elections in the wake of a corruption scandal that has rocked his country.