By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
On May 14, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) concluded its summit with remarks by President Obama, but unfortunately the meeting failed to produce the desired results of assuring the Gulf States the commitment of the United States to the region.
The statement by President Obama at the conclusion of the summit, further widened the unease and only exacerbated the apprehension the Gulf States currently have regarding a true guarantee that the United States has concerning the security of the region from outside threats.
The outside threats the GCC member nations are most concerned about is not that of ISIS, but of Iran.
President Obama, in his prepared remarks stated that “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. And let me underscore — the United States keeps our commitments.”
The Gulf States were seeking a written assurance something akin to the agreement of a NATO like article five arrangement, instead they received a lukewarm and unpredictable response by the United States.
The president’s statement had a hollow ring, as the Gulf States remember all too well the president’s past remarks. Obama’s rhetoric is never followed up with concrete action.
Aaron Kliegman, writing for the Center for Security Policy wrote that to understand why America’s Sunni Arab allies do not take such words seriously and need them in writing, one must look to Syria. In 2011, a civil war started when President Bashar al-Assad violently attempted to put down protests against his regime. After Assad continued to perpetuate violence against his people, and the Syrian opposition grew, Obama said the Syrian leader’s “days were numbered” and that he must step down from the presidency.
Even after his strong rhetoric with regard to Assad, the president virtually did nothing to follow up on his statements, or supported any kind of effort to match his word with an actionable strategy.
This was further compounded as Kliegman wrote that Obama then set a clear redline that if Assad used chemical weapons, then the US would intervene against him. In 2013, the United Nations officially announced that Assad did use chemical weapons to slaughter civilians, but the US did not act, leading Leon Panetta, Obama’s former Secretary of Defense, to criticize the president’s inaction as “damaging.” He elaborated, “It was important for us to stand by our word and go in and do what a commander in chief should do.”
Even though this was in the past it still affects U.S. foreign policy to this day. The president even added further confusion when he included in his statement that “We gave them our best analysis of the enormous needs that Iran has internally, and the commitment that Iran has made to its people in terms of shoring up its economy and improving economic growth.”
This one statement unnerved our Gulf State allies the most was the president believes that a nuclear deal with Iran, and alleviating the sanctions will allow to then divert billions into revitalizing its economy. The Gulf States representatives were horrified by this lack of understanding of Iran’s true intentions.
The Gulf States see firsthand Tehran’s influence all over the Middle East, from Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq, and its continued support of Hamas and Hezbollah. The potential nuclear deal with Iran, and the infusion of billions of dollars, will only give Tehran the economic capacity to further spread its influence and become the hegemonic power in the region it had always sought.
Instead of reassuring our Gulf allies, we further assured them that any nuclear deal with Iran will surely lead to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, which will be catastrophic, not only for the region, but the world.