Camp David summit: Modest expectations

تم نشره في Wed 13 May / May 2015. 05:01 PM - آخر تعديل في Wed 13 May / May 2015. 05:41 PM

By Fahed Khitan

The US administration does not have a lot to offer to its angry Gulf allies over its policies in the Middle East. In an interview with the Saudi newspaper alSharq alAwsat, on the eve of the upcoming summit in Camp David today, the US President Barack Obama tried to dispel the doubts of Gulf leaders about his country's commitment to the security and interests of their countries, but he renewed his administration's stated positions that does not comply with the Gulf States policies.

What worries Gulf states the most is the agreement with Iran on its nuclear program. For Obama, this agreement is an orphan strategic success for his policies in the Middle East, one that he cannot give up, regardless of the fact that Iran is a "state that sponsors terrorism" in the region, according to Obama's description.

The US administration shares the concern of the Gulf states over Iran's role in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and its interference in the affairs of some Gulf countries. But, at the same time, prefers diplomatic solutions over military confrontation to resolve these files.

The US approach on Syria does not satisfy the Gulf States; even though it does not see a role for Bashar alAssad in Syria's future, it adheres to political solutions and rejects military solution to the crisis.

The United States - at the moment - gives priority to defeating the terrorist Islamic State, before thinking about taking down the alAssad regime. The training program of moderate Syrian fighters, which is managed by Washington in collaboration with Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, directed first and foremost to end any control IS has n Syria.

Gulf States, though supporting the program, aspire to expand the list of targets to include alAssad regime. Invitations have been circulating in the capitals of the Gulf for another “Decisive Storm” in Syria, similar to those launched by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

In Iraq, the Obama administration is counting on cooperation with the Government of Haider alAbadi to eliminate IS and adopt a conciliatory policy with Iraq's Sunnis to return them to the political life. Gulf leaders are not enthusiastic about this trend, and still see the government of alAbadi as the other side over alMaliki’s government, and still see the whole of Iraq as "occupied" by Iran, as more than one Gulf official said.

The US administration has a basket full of military and security support programs for the Gulf States, which it is using to reaffirm its commitment to the security of the region in the face of potential threats from Iran.

The Obama administration believes that its plans to deploy a missile system to protect the security of the Gulf states, is enough to dispel its leaders fears over a deal with Iran that comes at their “expense” as Gulf Arab officials echo.

To what extent will the US offer is enough to reassure the Gulf states, and contain the state of tension in the relationship with Washington?

The level of representation at the summit, and the statements of some Gulf officials, in addition to what is published by GCC media, combined, suggest that the contradictions in the positions are bigger than the US’s administration's ability to contain them.

Therefore, the expectations about the outcomes of the Camp David summit seem modest, given the variation in the positions of the parties regarding key issues.

The US’s alliance with the Gulf countries will remain strong, regardless of the existing differences. But the two sides are redefining their relationship. Camp David summit is a loaded beginning of a new era.

@fahed_khitan

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic edition

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