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The U.S. and the Gulf: Those who do not ask, shall not receive

The six Gulf nations were all united and they all stood together against the Iranian nuclear deal

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Published: Updated:

U.S. President Barack Obama and delegations from the Gulf Cooperation Council were among 20 delegates gathered around a large rectangular table at the Camp David retreat on Thursday. If it was not for the strong objection of the Gulf countries on the Western-Iranian nuclear deal, this meeting would not have been held. The U.S. would then have simply sent a letter through its diplomats to the Gulf explaining the details of the deal without taking into account the GCC’s opinion.

During the weeks that followed the declaration of the initial deal with Iran, the Gulf-American relationship was unsettled and several Gulf officials expressed their anger through direct and indirect messages protesting against the deal and the American standpoint. A diplomatic and media battle erupted between the two sides; President Obama tried to diminish the importance of the Gulf Arabs’ objections saying that the deal is rewarding for the Gulf countries and the whole world. Obama tried to sarcastically respond to them at times, and at other times he speciously considered that Iran deserves more attention, and that the U.S. will make up for the years of estrangement between the two countries, saying that the Iranian regime fits as a partner of the United States in the Middle East. All this increased the anger of the Arab countries that expressed their rejection, sending signals of possible suspension of all further cooperation.

The six Gulf nations were all united and they all stood together against the deal; this is what strengthened their objections. They were all keen to have a precise stance and made sure not to get drifted behind wide-ranging and unrealistic demands.

The Iranian beast

The Gulf countries did not abruptly stand against the nuclear deal or against reconciliation with Iran, because it is actually in favor of the Gulf and the world; however they objected on freeing the Iranian beast from its cage without providing security guarantees. Finally, Obama, the strategist of the deal, wanted to meet the Gulf representatives all together; they came to the Camp David compound with a joint memo. The summit that was preceded by several meetings was not limited to the discussion of the nuclear deal and Iran, as it also included all the issues that are threatening the region.

The six Gulf nations were all united and they all stood together against the Iranian nuclear deal

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

The demands of the Gulf countries were not entirely fulfilled but at the same time, President Obama did not ignore their objections. The U.S. assured that it will protect the Gulf region from any external attacks, namely from Iran, and in return, the Gulf pledged to abide by their security cooperation against terrorist organizations. They all agreed to peacefully resolve the issues; all this was under a new title: the Arab-U.S. Strategic Partnership.

Three long meetings were the best way to conclude this political storm and fold away the worst chapter of relations between the Gulf and the Americans seen in 70 years. The GCC did not get a stamped and sealed pact from the president vowing to protect the Gulf, but the defense commitments were clear and similar to those vowed by former U.S. presidents.

The most important point in my opinion was that Gulf diplomats were not content with a silent objection this time. On the contrary, they raised their voice, objected and insisted on their demands, thus saving the old vital and important strategic relationship between both sides. Meanwhile, Iranian leaders, who decided to fire on a Singaporean ship, did not succeed in sabotaging the negotiations. And their threats did not succeed in breaking the naval blockade on Yemen, a move which was intended to sow discord between the two sides.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on May 16, 2015.

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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.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.