Obama Meets Arab Allies at Camp David to Address Middle East Security

Obama Meets Arab Allies at Camp David to Address Middle East Security

Last week US President Barack Obama hosted the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at Camp David. The talks ended up in failure. The President had invited six Gulf kings, emirs and sultans to the presidential retreat at Camp David seeking to shore up wavering trust while Washington negotiates with regional power Tehran. Obama’s plans were in tatters with only two of six GCC members – Qatar and Kuwait – represented by their heads of state. The Arab allies demonstrated their opposition to the US Middle East policy. 

The US stance on Iran’s nuclear program is the apple of discord. It heightens tensions in the region. The Gulf states fear the nuclear deal between the United States and Iran is premised on a recognition of rising Persian power in the Gulf and the region as a whole. The Camp David talks showed how hard it is to take a stance that would take into account the goals to be reached as a result of talks on Iran’s nuclear program and the growing influence of Tehran in the region. Washington was to provide its Arab allies with security guarantees and keep away from confrontation with Tehran at the same time. Until now Washington has failed to reach the objective. Actually, the unfriendly attitude of Arab monarchies does not leave much wiggle room for Washington. Israel and Saudi Arabia insist that the United States make a choice – it’s either us or Iran. 

Summing up the results of talks, Obama stressed the administration's obligation to maintaining the security of the Gulf states. He said, «I am reaffirming our ironclad commitment to the security of our gulf partners». «In the event of such aggression or the threat of such aggression, the United States stands ready to work with our GCC partners to urgently determine what actions may be appropriate, using the means at our collective disposal, including the potential use of military force for the defense of our GCC partners,» the President added. In a joint communique the seven countries at the summit committed themselves to work together to counteract the destabilizing activities of Iran in the region. In the document Washington pledged to fast-track arms transfers to the GCC states. The communique also includes an agreement to conduct joint large-scale military training exercises. It mentions the potential use of force among other things. The creation of missile defense with early warning in the Persian Gulf was at the top of agenda. 

The Arab interlocutors pointed their finger at Tehran as a threat but Obama expressed his position on Iran in a rather vague and elusive way. The King of Saudi Arabia is annoyed. He knew in advance there was little chance to reach an agreement to meet the goals of Riyadh. Prevented form going nuclear Tehran will increase its clout anyway. The country already has a military force to reckon with. 

With sanctions lifted and international isolation becoming a thing of the past Iran will become an economic and military leader stronger than all the Arab monarchies of the Persian Gulf together. The United States supported the Saudi Arabia – led military operation against the Houthis in Yemen. It did not strengthen the Saudi Arabia’s position as it contends with Iran for regional dominance. Riyadh has failed in Yemen. As a result, one more protracted military conflict has been sparked in the Middle East to drag in many countries of the region. Like in Syria, Iran will play a decisive role to determine the outcome of the battle. 

The Leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei says Saudi Arabia is making a major mistake in Yemen warning that «Saudi crimes in the country will backfire on Riyadh». Ali Khamenei, who was speaking in a meeting with visiting Iraqi President Foad Masum, said the Saudis have launched an aggression on Yemen based on an unwise justification. At the same time he praised improved Iran-Iraq relations characterizing them as deep and fraternal. The Ayatollah welcomed this development of events and emphasized the fact that the relationship has achieved an unprecedented progress. Iran and Iraq are the two largest states of the Persian Gulf but the security of the region was discussed in Camp David without their participation. Tehran has an ally among Gulf Cooperation Council members. Iran and Oman have inked an agreement on defense cooperation. Iran enjoys stable relationship with Kuwait. The United Arab Emirates remain to be the Iran’s largest trade partner. 

As the events unfold in Yemen it becomes clear that Saudi Arabia has made a blunder that resulted in making the Iran’s position stronger. The Iran-controlled groups in Lebanon, Palestine and Syria got the upper hand on the organizations supported by Saudi Arabia. The Iran-supported Houthis hold their positions in Yemen under the airstrikes delivered by Arab states coalition. Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the King of Saudi Arabia, believed that Iran was too much interested in the success of nuclear talks to continue the support for the Houthis. He was mistaken.

Iranian lawmakers have signed and proposed a bill that, if passed by parliament, would stop nuclear talks with the United States until Washington stops issuing threats tied to the outcome of the negotiations. The 80 lawmakers who signed the bill presented it to a parliamentary board on May 12, Iran's official IRNA news agency reported. The legislation would need to be passed by a majority of the 249-member parliament to be approved. Lawmakers apparently proposed the bill after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said in recent weeks that all military options were "on the table" if diplomacy with Tehran failed, and after the U.S. Senate passed legislation requiring that Congress be able to approve any nuclear deal with Tehran. 

The White House continues to call Iran a state sponsoring terrorism, supporting the Syrian regime and violating human rights etc. Obama says the sanctions will be in force even if a nuclear deal is reached in case Iran does not change its reckless behavior. The US Middle East policy appears to be increasingly illogical and dangerous, including not Iran only but Israel as well. In order to ensure that GCC member states are able to respond quickly to current and future threats, the United States and GCC member states will take steps necessary to ensure arms transfers are fast-tracked to GCC member states contributing to regional security. 

Tel Aviv immediately emphasized that Obama is in violation of tacit consent to ensure that Israel remains the number one privileged arms recipient enjoying superiority over Arab neighbors. The communique provision reflects the interests of American defense industry corporations. The same way as the decision to create a missile defense capability. The document states that «GCC member states committed to develop a region-wide ballistic missile defense capability, including through the development of a ballistic missile early warning system. The United States will help conduct a study of GCC ballistic missile defense architecture and offered technical assistance in the development of a GCC-wide ballistic missile early warning system». The implementation of the deal will bring in billions of dollars to enrich US companies. It can be surmised that the goal of Washington’s policy is to make Arab states constantly concerned over the Iranian threat. 

The Camp David meeting showed once more that reaching a nuclear deal with Iran does not mean lifting the sanctions. There will be no rapprochement between the Washington and Tehran. In an interview with Der Spiegel, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said, «We're not talking about rapprochement. We will have differences with the United States no matter what. The United States and Iran have different world views». The progress on nuclear talks could become a factor of regional stabilization but the policy of Obama administration may turn it into a source of future conflicts.