The Summit with Obama: Truth and Mirage

How do we assess the summit that was held in Riyadh last week between leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council states* and President Obama? What is the status of this summit and the outcomes reached regarding future relations with the United Sates? Did the summit succeed in extracting the reasons and motives behind the concealed crisis in the recent relations between the two sides?

A long joint closing statement was issued about the summit, affirming the U.S.-GCC alliance and the commitment of the administration to defend the security and stability of the region, and listing a variety of joint economic, military and security projects. The statement also strongly condemns Iran, its practices, support of terrorist activities and disruption of regional stability. Remarks President Obama made during and after the summit confirmed these positions.

Still, neither the joint statement nor Obama’s remarks presented unequivocal answers to the questions we raised before the summit.

To answer these questions in a way that actually reflects the truth, removed from diplomatic courtesies, we must bear two crucial matters in mind:

1. Convening this summit came at the request of the Obama administration. Certainly, the conditions and circumstances that compelled the administration to request the summit are well known; that is, after the opinions President Obama expressed in conversations published by The Atlantic — shocking, unfair accusations directed at Saudi Arabia and GCC states — roused the anger of Gulf Arabs. Understandably, at this summit Obama wanted to cushion the blow of his positions and statements. Most likely, influential organizations and circles in the U.S. pressured Obama to ask for this summit in order to repair the damage he had done, for the sake of American interests in the Gulf and to avoid having him leave office with U.S.-GCC relations in crisis. This means that visiting Saudi Arabia and convening this summit were not originally on Obama’s agenda before leaving the White House. Requesting this summit does not reflect a serious desire to support and develop relations with GCC states or affirm the U.S.-GCC alliance at all.

2. We must remember that last May the Camp David summit was convened between the GCC states and President Obama. It came after the signing of the Iran nuclear agreement between the P5+1,** as an attempt by the Obama administration to dispel fears and reassure the GCC that the agreement meant neither a change in its attitudes and commitments, nor a change in its outlook on the nature of U.S.-GCC relations.

A long joint statement was also issued after the Camp David summit, which is almost a carbon copy of the statement issued after the Riyadh summit.

But what happened after the Camp David summit?

After several months, President Obama issued the statements published in The Atlantic, launching an attack on Saudi Arabia and the GCC states and expressing hostile opinions that had nothing to do whatsoever with what appeared in the Camp David summit release and his statements at that time.

What can we draw from all of this? What is it driving at?

All of this — the Riyadh Summit of the GCC, the statement issued afterwards and what President Obama said during it — means one thing: Obama did not change his convictions or abandon the positions that he has taken. Our countries’ reservations and causes for concern have not gone away.

This is the truth. If anyone believes this summit set relations between the GCC states and the United States back on its previous course, or reaffirmed an alliance and strategic partnership, or inaugurated a new era of U.S.-GCC relations, he or she is clinging to a mirage with no basis in reality.

What the summit achieved — in appearance only — was lowering the intensity of the crisis in U.S.-GCC relations. We do not need to rely on the summit in order to say without a doubt that American attitudes and policies no longer serve our interests, but threaten them.

On this basis, we must promote our own Gulf Arab interests.

I wrote before the summit that America is no longer our ally or strategic partner. We need to handle our affairs on this basis. This did not change after the summit.

*Editor’s note: The Gulf Cooperation Council states are Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

**Editor’s note: The P5+1 countries are the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — plus Germany.

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