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New phase beckons in GCC-U.S. relations

The Camp David Summit has set the foundation for a new political phase in the region

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi

Published: Updated:

The many analytical reports after the Camp David Summit focused on the Iranian nuclear deal and its impact on relations between the Gulf Cooperation Council and America. This is because final negotiations would be completed by the end of June, but this issue was not specifically tackled in the talks despite the strategic partnership between the Gulf nations and the United States.

There was instead a focus on forging a new relationship, to solving issues that would be of mutual benefit to both sides, and which would ultimately secure peace and stability in the region.

The Camp David Summit has set the foundation for a new political phase in the region

Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi

The final communiqué issued after the summit stated that the U.S. wanted to reaffirm and deepen the strong partnership and cooperation between the U.S. and the GCC. The leaders underscored their mutual commitment to a U.S.-GCC strategic partnership to build closer relations in all fields including defense and security.

U.S. approaches to the Gulf

The sentence “collective approach to regional issues” is important when considering the present and future of the region. The conflict between the GCC and the U.S. on regional issues, especially because of its lukewarm approach to the Syrian crisis, is not a secret. The U.S. has also failed in Iraq, which resulted in Tehran expanding its influence in the region.

The U.S. approach to the regime change in Egypt and its opposition to the June 30 revolution was another issue that has irked the GCC. All these regional issues had direct bearing on the GCC countries, so a summit where frank views could be expressed was necessary to determine the course of a new partnership.

Although the summit participants had discussed the Iranian nuclear deal, the GCC leaders had pointed out that the issue was not only about Iran possessing nuclear weapons but also its interference in the internal affairs of GCC countries and supporting militias to conduct proxy wars. The signing of a nuclear pact does not mean Iran will morph into an angel. Iran has revealed its expansionist ambitions in the region by taking part in the Yemen war.

Here the communiqué has made it clear that the U.S. is prepared to work jointly with the GCC states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state’s territorial integrity. The U.S. has proven its commitment to the GCC during the recent war. It has also given assurances that it would inform the GCC about developments in its nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Critical issue

Some analysts have not been analyzing the situation correctly. The critical issue at the talks was about developing a clear and shared vision to tackle regional issues. Saudi Foreign Minister Adela-Jubeir said as much when he stated that the GCC countries had not presented specific demands during the summit.

The media in the U.S. had been positive about the summit, because it was preceded by a high-level meeting that included U.S. President Barack Obama, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Naif and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman who were representing Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman. This resulted in creating some sort of understanding between the two sides on many issues, which helped make the summit a success.

The leaders have decided to hold a similar summit in the Gulf region next year. This is a clear indication that the GCC countries are capable of talking with one voice. This will strengthen their position in international forums and negotiations with super powers. In the world of politics, only the powerful are respected. Naturally, when GCC countries act as one powerful political and economic group, their position during negotiations become stronger, benefiting all peoples in the region.
The Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm was instrumental in developing a strong GCC political position. The consultative summit that was held in Riyadh days before the Camp David summit contributed to this situation.

The Camp David Summit has set the foundation for a new political phase in the region. It is an opportunity for Gulf countries to make greater gains based on their current alliance. It is important for the GCC to have stronger relations with Washington, to serve their common interests and contribute to resolving regional issues.

This article was first published in Arab News on May 20, 2015.

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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

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