Ahead of Obama’s Camp David summit with the Gulf countries, the Arab press warns of failing diplomatic ties with the US and regional upheaval.
By: Aryeh Savir, World Israel News
President Barack Obama is scheduled to hold a summit in Camp David over the weekend together with delegates from the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, UAE, and Oman.
The Sunni countries are sending lower-level delegates to the summit and the heads of state are not attending the conference in an act of protest over Obama’s push towards a deal with Iran over its nuclear aspirations, which the Gulf countries believe will further destabilize the region and even threaten their existence. The Emirs of Kuwait and Qatar are the only GCC heads of state who are planning to attend.
According to a New York Times report, the Saudis had even then hinted that they would further downgrade their representation if they felt that the summit was not going to produce results that conformed to their expectations.
The objective of the Camp David summit is to reassure the GCC countries about the nuclear agreement slated to be signed with Iran next month, as well as to discuss tighter US-Gulf security cooperation.
Obama may attempt to assuage the Gulf countries’ fears by offering them an advanced security package which includes weapons they have not yet added to their arsenal. However, the Arab news site Elaph.com reported that the Gulf heads of state would not settle for aid, military contracts, and defense systems provided by the US, but that they were seeking “clear, honest, and practical clarification, by means of absolutely firm, long-term resolutions, that Iran would be prevented from actualizing its expansionist aspirations in the region and from developing nuclear weapon.”
Elaph also reported that “the Gulf leaders are headed for confrontation with the American president, and they want answers and explanations about his positions on these burning issues.”
There are reports of extensive diplomatic efforts on both sides to clear the air, but at the same time the Saudi press published numerous articles and editorials fiercely attacking the Obama administration’s Middle East policy, stating that it had repeatedly disappointed the Arab countries vis-à-vis its foreign policy in the Middle East.
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The articles accused the Obama administration of reinforcing Iran’s power in the region – so much so that it was now threatening GCC interests – and underscored that it was not the Iranian nuclear bomb but Iran’s imperialism and expansionism in the region and Iran’s interference in the affairs of the Arab countries that was the “real bomb threatening [the Arab countries’] security,” and called on the US to curb this.
These articles focused on the demands that the GCC countries would be presenting to Obama at the summit, including that he change his policy towards Iran and “restore the regional balance,” while at the same time he would undertake unprecedented security military cooperation with the GCC.
The articles emphasized that “the Gulf countries no longer believe the US’s promises and guarantees,” and that they would now demand guarantees in writing. Some of the articles even warned that US-GCC relations were now at a point of a grave, even critical crisis of confidence, and that the Camp David summit was a chance for the US to prevent the collapse of its alliance with the GCC. If this alliance did fall apart, they said, US interests in the region would suffer, and the smoldering regional conflict would erupt into a conflagration.
Salman Al-Dosari, editor of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, argued that the mutual trust between the US and the Gulf states had eroded to an extent that jeopardizes the alliance between them. “The upcoming Camp David summit may be the most important Gulf-US meeting to take place in 50 years, [because] the US-Gulf alliance is going through a phase of tension and a crisis of confidence,” he wrote. “All [US] institutions are aware of the negative repercussions for American interests that will ensue if the alliance with the Gulf States is dissolved. It is unreasonable for US policy to threaten the interests of the Gulf States, and later we [are bound to] discover that US interests in the region have been harmed as well. This proves that Washington’s policy in the region is completely misguided.” He called for action to back the Obama administration’s rhetoric.
“The US wants to kill two birds with one stone, [by achieving] excellent relations with the Gulf States and with Iran simultaneously. This equation is unacceptable, not because the Gulf States hate [Iran], but because the Iranian regime is predicated on hostility to its neighbors in the Arabian Gulf, and its entire policy is geared towards intervening in their internal affairs. This is the entire story, honorable President Barack Obama.”
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Ghassan Charbel, editor-in-chief of the London-based Saudi daily Al-Hayat, wrote that he fires burning in the Middle East would in time singe the US as well. “Experience teaches us that Middle East diseases are contagious, and that the terrorism that is taking root there threatens the safety of New York, Washington, Paris, Berlin.”
“It would be no exaggeration to say that the US-Gulf summit at Camp David creates an unusual encounter that will leave its mark on the fate of the Middle East for years or [even] decades to come,” he added.
“The American hesitation to deal with it [Iran] decisively and seriously will diminish the importance of the summit and increase the Gulf countries’ apprehensions about Obama’s ‘Iran policy.’ American hesitation will also cause the regional conflict to erupt,” he warned.
George Sama’an, a columnist for Al-Hayat, wrote that the Arabs no longer believe Obama’s promises. “The Gulf states are among the countries that no longer believe the promises and guarantees that the US is providing these days. Obama has not kept any of the promises he made to the residents of the region since his speeches in Egypt and Turkey”
He too demanded action and not only rhetoric. “In light of the changes in the regional and strategic arenas, it is not enough for President Obama to provide guarantees or attempt to calm the situation… What [he] must do [now] is take an active role in a policy that will restore the balance among the region’s major powers… Will he do this, and grow closer to the US’s traditional partners instead of pushing them away?”
Saudi columnist Muhammad Aal Al-Sheikh wrote, in the Saudi Al-Jazirah daily that the Gulf States may seek other allies such as France or China. “Gulf residents, there are other options. You are not alone in the arena… France is a world power… “This is an extremely clear message [to Obama].”
(With files from MEMRI)