The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative
The Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) is a diplomatic initiative by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in the Gulf region. In 2004, because of global threats NATO nations saw it in their interest to spread their influence into the Gulf region. The Initiative hopes to help in the creation of bi-lateral cooperation with countries in the greater Middle East. ICI is similar to the Mediterranean Dialogue which was started by NATO in 1992 for countries in the Mediterranean.
NATO member countries work through ICI to provide advancements in defense reforms; including, defense budgeting, civil-military relations and military-to-military cooperation, to provide for interoperability with Gulf and NATO countries military forces. NATO hopes that these Gulf forces can be used in NATO and other international organizations missions if interoperability is achieved.
Through working with the Middle Eastern countries, NATO hopes to further cooperation in counter-terrorism military operations. Through ICI, they work to expand intelligence sharing and fighting against proliferation, and delivery of weapons of mass destruction. Because of the global threats that terrorism offers, NATO officials state that the Middle East can no longer be ignored. Chris Donnell, former adviser to four of NATO’s Secretaries Generals, stated, "Whereas a decade ago NATO’s prime security concern was the stabilization and transformation of Central and Eastern Europe, today it is addressing problems coming from or passing through countries of the “Greater Middle East”"
- Confidence Building
ICI is known as a “soft power” action to increase discussions between western and Middle Eastern countries. NATO hopes that this interaction will lead to action by ICI member countries in civil areas, such as democratic reform. Carlo Masala, a researcher at the NATO Defense College, wrote that the Initiative could be, “Described as a "gentle-collaboration" strategy. This should primarily emphasize "soft" security, that is information networking and the creation of a "dense web of cooperative efforts". This strategy focuses on confidence-building and imposes few, if any, political preconditions, requirements, or desired end-states on ICI members”
Istanbul Cooperation Initiative Group
After founding the organization at their Istanbul Summit in Turkey, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization establish the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative Group. Consisting of a political counselor from all 26 of the NATO nations, the groups task consists of working with ICI countries on a bilateral bases in overseeing and advising changes by member countries. The Group also defines the procedures for practical activities with interested ICI countries, and reports to the North Atlantic Counsel, NATO's decision making body, on policies it believes it should be implemented in regards to the ICI.