With President Obama offering assurances that the U.S. will continue to bless member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council with military firepower and diplomatic cover in the world arena, leaders from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates offered their tacit blessing of a pending nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran that could be finalized as early as June.
At the conclusion of a summit, which took place at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland, GCC heads-of-state and high-level dignitaries were told their reservations over the deal with Iran were understood and that the U.S. was committed to using its current footprint in the Middle East region and its military technology to back the interests of their regimes. According to the Associated Press, "The U.S. pledged to bolster its security cooperation with the Gulf on counterterrorism, maritime security, cybersecurity and ballistic missile defense.
As CNN reports:
Obama had spent the day huddled with leaders from the region at his Camp David retreat, and emerged from their summit declaring that he was as committed as ever to protecting them from aggression, a reference to Iran.
A joint statement delivered at the end of the gathering declared that the U.S. will continue to "deter and confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War," and that the U.S. Is ready would work with them to determine an appropriate response in the face of such aggression, "including the potential use of military force."
"Let me underscore, the United States keeps our commitments," Obama said at a news conference on Thursday as the summit concluded.
"I was very explicit," the president continued. "The United States will stand by our GCC partners against external attack and will deepen and extend the cooperation that we have when it comes to the many challenges that exist in the region."
The Camp David summit with the GCC comes as the P5+1 nations—the U.S., France, the U.K., Russia, China, and Germany—continue work to reach an agreement with Iran by the end of June to curb its domestic nuclear program in exchange for relief from international economic sanctions.
Writing at Common Dreams ahead of the summit this week, human rights activists Medea Benjamin and Nalini Ramachandran voiced extensive criticism of the historic and current behavior of the GCC and the strong diplomatic ties its member states enjoy with the U.S., its powerful military, and western arms suppliers. Especially given the ongoing Saudi-led military campaign against its southern neighbors in Yemen, the activists deplored the near-sightedness and hypocrisy of the rhetoric surrounding the meeting which, despite the lack of available evidence, continued to treat Iran as an the primary aggressor in the region.
Describing the Camp David meeting as a "summit of dictators," Benjamin and Ramachandran continued:
More than anything else, U.S.-Saudi relations — and the current summit — are the materialization of a business agreement that turns a blind eye to the basic human rights of Saudi citizens in favor of lucrative political and military alliances. The U.S.-GCC summit forces us to call into question the priorities of U.S. foreign policy. The juxtaposition of the kingdom’s ongoing bombing campaign in Yemen and its extensive human rights abuses with a diplomatic meeting to promote the U.S.-Saudi relationship further exposes the flaws in the system.
It’s a system in which Washington condemned the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia, but lauded the leadership of the deceased Saudi king. It’s a system in which the U.S. cites human rights abuses in Iran and North Korea as reasons why normalization is not possible, but provided Saudi Arabia with $90 billion worth of weapons contracts in four years, many of which are being used against civilians in Yemen. Ultimately, it’s a system in which policymakers remain silent amidst human rights horrors and air strike terrors, all to preserve a delicate partnership that fills U.S. corporate bank accounts and arms Saudi monarchs.
The pattern is predictable: ignore the oppression, discuss more pressing issues of security in the Middle East, shake hands, smile, repeat. If only the U.S. government chose to be on the side of Raif Badawi, Yemeni civilians, and the repressed citizens of Saudi Arabia, then the U.S.-GCC goals of enhanced partnership and security would be more than just empty words.