Is Camp David meant as a marketing tool for the Iran deal?
If the architect of the U.S. agreement wants to reassure everyone around the table at Camp David, he will hear a long list of issues linked to Iran
U.S. President Barack Obama is known for his persuasive talents. Indeed, the upcoming Camp David summit may not only ease the minds of the invited GCC leaders and calm the anger aroused by the impending Iranian nuclear agreement. It may also turn a new page in the history of the region. Still, we are skeptical, because the task seems too difficult and complex to achieve.
Obama’s initiative has been a positive step following the series of negative measures the Gulf countries believe the U.S. has taken against them in the negotiations with Iran – measures they feel have failed to take into account the enormous risks to other countries in the region. One writer, defending Obama, argues that the president's open policy of seeking to resolve old tensions is not limited to Iran; he reinitiated ties with Cuba after 50 years, without imposing any conditions on Havana.
However, it is wrong to compare Iran to Cuba. Iran is a malignant force, while Cuba is benign and no longer represents a threat to any party. Tehran’s religious ideology is based on change and domination; it took part in the violence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Gaza, Yemen, Sudan and Central Africa, and further afield; Iran has been active in South-East Asia, and involved in the bombings in Argentina. Cuba’s hostile military and political activities, on the other hand, ended at the beginning of the millennium, a decade and a half ago.
If the architect of the U.S. agreement wants to reassure everyone around the table at Camp David, he will hear a long list of issues linked to IranAbdulrahman al-Rashed
Both the matters to be discussed, and intentions of the participants at the Camp David summit, will make negotiations tricky. The Gulf states fear that the imminent nuclear agreement will solely deal with Iran’s nuclear program, thus opening the floodgates for Iran to threaten the Gulf’s very existence.
If the architect of the U.S. agreement wants to reassure everyone around the table at Camp David, he will hear a long list of issues linked to Iran. Many clashes between Iran and the Gulf countries may arise on land and at sea as a result of the potential vacuum left after the signing of any nuclear agreement, if the United States reduces its military presence or decides to remain neutral. Therefore, the imminent deal between Iran and the U.S. poses a major threat to the countries of the Gulf region – not a source of security and stability, as the White House claims.
A marketing tool?
What can be seen as positive is that Obama decided to address these concerns and objections at Camp David before any deal is signed with Iran, in order for Arab Gulf leaders to pose questions about the nature of the mysterious agreement and its potential repercussions on their nations. There is also a perception among them that the Camp David summit is just a marketing tool, from which Obama wants to promote the deal without making any real commitments or giving any clear answers.
What commitments could the U.S. government and other Western countries provide to ensure the security and stability of the Gulf? Arms sales and missile shields will not be enough; the most important thing is to get an explicit commitment that sets the boundaries for any attack from Iran or its allies against the Gulf countries. Such a commitment has succeeded in maintaining the stability of the Gulf region over the past five decades, with the exception of the war waged by Saddam Hussein on Kuwait. Due to this commitment and an American presence, Iran did not dare to cross the waters of the Gulf.
Such a commitment would not only help in maintaining the stability of the Gulf and guaranteeing the supply of oil to world markets, but would also be important to an Iran divided by internal conflict between its institutions and leaders. There are two groups in Iran; the first includes extremists who believe in expansion and domination, and the second wants to focus on internal reforms and end all foreign exploits. A strong American stance, guarding against Iran’s exploitation of any nuclear agreement and pledging to maintain the security of the Gulf region, would strengthen the position of moderate Iranian leaders, and would push Iran towards seeking reconciliation and regional stability.
To be continued…
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 9, 2015.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.