US President Barack Obama vowed on Friday to back Gulf allies against any external attack, seeking to reassure them of Washington’s iron-clad commitment to their security amid Arab anxiety over US-led efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.
Hosting the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – which consists of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Oman – for a rare summit at Camp David, Obama pledged that the United States would consider using military force to defend them and would also help counter Iran’s “destabilising activities in the region.”
“I am reaffirming our iron-clad commitment to the security of our Gulf partners,” Obama told a closing news conference. He stopped short of offering a formal defence treaty that some Gulf countries had sought, announcing more modest measures, including integrating ballistic missile defence systems, beefing up cyber and maritime security, streamlining weapons sales and increasing joint military exercises, instead.
The GCC agreed that a ‘comprehensive, verifiable’ accord with Tehran would be in their security interests. But Obama did not go as far as saying the Gulf states had committed to backing the outcome of the talks with Iran.
Obama sought to strike a balance between trying to ease GCC fears about his diplomacy with Iran and squeezing the states to work together more in their own defence.
“The United States will stand by our GCC partners against external attack,” he said. But he then told a news conference it was a ‘two-way street’ and Gulf countries must also cooperate better.
A summit joint statement showed the GCC states committing to develop a US-assisted region-wide missile defence system, something Washington has long advocated. However, Gulf states, in the final communique, stopped short of endorsing a framework deal reached with Iran last month. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al Jubeir said his country favors efforts to negotiate the closing of Iran’s nuclear weapons pathways, but told reporters: “We will follow the talks and see before we can judge.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2015.
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