As Iran meddles, will the GCC-U.S. summit strengthen ties?
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations are facing a clear and present danger from Iran
Gulf leaders have high hopes that they will be able to convince U.S. President Barack Obama, at their White House and Camp David meetings in May, of the folly of his current Middle East policy, which many believe threatens the region’s peace and stability.
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations are facing a clear and present danger from Iran. The region’s people believe that the recently agreed nuclear deal will bolster Iran on the economic and political fronts, allowing it to continue its expansionist policies in the region. Even before the lifting of current sanctions, Iran has been able to expand in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
If it were not for Operation Decisive Storm, it would have also taken Yemen. The operation has sent a clear message to Iran that the GCC nations’ preference for political and diplomatic detente is not a weakness and that they are prepared to act if red lines are crossed.
Taking the world by surprise
Decisive Storm was a calculated and planned operation that took many world nations by surprise, and has subsequently been ratified and supported by the U.N. Security Council. The Gulf nations did not wait for Washington or expect them to do the job, in part because the current U.S. administration has diverted from the general direction of its Middle East policies.
While the White House has stated that the summit aims to strengthen security coordination and boost the partnership between the U.S. and GCC countries, there is understandable skepticism here. This is because it comes in the wake of the nuclear deal and it turning a blind eye to Iran’s neo-imperialist machinations in Iraq and Syria.
Obama reportedly said recently that Gulf nations face a greater threat from within their own countries than from Iran. While there are clear domestic challenges for Gulf nations, including modernizing their governance structures, boosting transparency and fighting corruption, he has overstated the case. These are issues that can be dealt with effectively by Gulf leaders, but the U.S. president has conveniently forgotten Iran’s disrespect for the sovereignty of other nations and its support for various anarchist groups, which has pushed the region into further turmoil and chaos.
Economic and political benefits
There are undoubted economic and political benefits from sorting out internal challenges in the Gulf region, but it pales in comparison with the consequences of the U.S. seeking new alliances in the Middle East. Washington has not only undermined the friendship and trust between long-standing allies, it has also given Iran the green light to continue its terror operations. A case in point has been the decision by Russia to allow Iran to buy the S-300 missile defense system, which should have been subject to an agreement on lifting the economic boycott.
For all this, including talk that the U.S. would abandon buying Middle East oil because of shale oil production, it would not be correct to say that it is not committed to the region’s peace and stability. The U.S. knows that Middle East energy still plays a critical role in the world economy.
The summit will be a chance for both sides to articulate their positions and draft a strategy to concretize future relations and commitments. Gulf officials would most certainly point out Washington’s mistakes, particularly its inaction over Syria that has seen terrorist groups expand their operations, and in Iraq where the door was opened for Iran.
However, the Gulf nations must ensure that they deliver a joint message to the American president so that there can be no claims later that the GCC itself was not unified in its approach to Middle East political policy. It has already taken a step in this direction, garnering it much respect and credibility by forming a coalition for Operation Decisive Storm.
There is, therefore, every chance that the upcoming meetings will lead to a new chapter in ties between the U.S. and Gulf nations, with a further opportunity to resolve seemingly endless conflicts and ensure much-needed peace and development for the region’s people.
This article was first published in Arab News on April 27, 2015.
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi is the editor-in-chief of Sayidaty and al-Jamila magazines. A prominent journalist who worked with Asharq al-Awsat in London and Arab News in KSA, al-Harthi later moved on to establish al-Eqtisadiah newspaper in KSA, in which he rose the position of Editorial Manager. He was appointed editor-in-chief for Arajol magazine in 1997. He won the Gulf Excellence award in 1992. You can follow him on Twitter here: @mfalharthi