Obama’s “Serious Global Threat”

By Rachel Ehrenfeld
Thursday, May 21st, 2015 @ 1:03AM

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Left: Obama and several Gulf States leaders at the U.S. GSS Summit, Camp David, Maryland, May 14, 2015.

The Islamic State’s territorial gains in Iraq and Syria and growing propaganda and recruitment in the West, is being downplayed by the Obama administration. The White House describes ISIS capture of Ramadi and its rapid advance towards Bagdad, merely as a “setback.”  Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, snapped at reporters questioning the White House ISIS strategy: “Are we going to light our hair on fire every time that there is a setback?”  

No, we do not expect the White House to light anything on fire. You see, that  would be seen by the Obama administration as contributing to global warming, which according to the president, is the most serious threat to national and global security. He even told cadets at the Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut, today, that Failure to act [fight global warming] would be “dereliction of duty.” 

It is doubtful any of  Gulf States leaders — those who made it to  the GCC summit  at Camp David last week— share Obama’s concern, because hey feel the heat of the growing threat emanating from the spinning of the Iranian centrifuges.

Amos Yadlin, the Director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), and Yoel Guzansky, a  Research Fellow at the Institute, have analyzed the outcome of the U.S. and the Gulf States Summit. 

Here are some excerpts: 

“The Gulf states have no interest in a significant deterioration in their relations with the US, since they will be the first to suffer. During the summit, Gulf representatives therefore expressed public support for the administration’s goals with Iran. In the long term, however, the Gulf leaders can be expected to try to design a new framework of relations with the US that will give those countries a larger degree of independence than they currently enjoy in managing their defense agenda – without full coordination with American interests and goals in the region. Even before any agreement with Iran, several Gulf states have already shown their readiness to take action in defense of their essential interest without the US, and furthermore, against its advice. The current bone of contention is the American effort at achieving a compromise agreement between the warring parties in Yemen, which contravenes Saudi Arabia’s goals in its war against the Houthi rebels and the desire of Saudi Arabia (and Turkey) to increase military involvement in Syria with the aim of overthrowing the Assad regime.

The Gulf states are incapable on their own of creating a strategic balance with Iran, which is also important for their economic prosperity. It is doubtful, however, whether a supply of advanced American arms will create this essential balance. Furthermore, in view of the sale of advanced arms to the Gulf states, the Americans will find it difficult to continue criticizing the absence of political freedom and the ongoing denial of human rights in those countries, out of concern that such criticism will harm the sales sorely needed by the American economy. Furthermore, if the US is truly interested in strategic cooperation with the Gulf states, it must prove that even if it wants a nuclear agreement with Iran, it is unwilling for such an agreement to give Iran the green light to act as it wishes in the region. However, the administration may find it difficult to present such proof, since Iran will regard it as grounds for halting implementation of the agreement. Iran can use the threat of withdrawing from the agreement as a significant means of pressure. Indeed, in his summary remarks at the end of the summit, Obama stressed that military cooperation with the Gulf states would not be at Iran’s expense.

Israel too faces a related dilemma. It is in Israel’s interest for the US, through its military presence, to continue to generate the necessary strategic balance against Iranian power in the Gulf region. The sale of advanced weapons to the Gulf states, however, is expected to detract from the IDF’s qualitative edge in the region.

The coming years will likely see a test of relations between the US and the Gulf states. These relations have already survived previous crises, particularly the severe crisis created by the events of September 11, 2001. Nonetheless, it is doubtful whether conciliatory declarations and the sale of advanced weapons will be enough to put the relations back on track and alleviate the monarchies’ anxiety about what they view as the mistaken strategic direction pursued by the US toward Iran, Syria, Egypt, and the Palestinian issue. To be sure, Gulf figures at the summit smiled for the cameras and read from the agreed text; they are unlikely to publicly express their dissatisfaction with the administration’s policy, or to speak before both houses of Congress. However, they can be expected to continue acting to attain their respective goals, even if these run counter to American policy.

Expectations of the summit were low, yet even so, it is questionable whether they were achieved. The Gulf states left the summit with only half of their wish list filled. Some of them hoped to receive an official security undertaking from the administration, a type of classic defense pact. What they got, however, was more of the same – declarations of support and advanced weapons, which they still regard as not advanced enough. Several of the countries asked for the procurement of F-35 warplanes, but encountered an American refusal….It is possible that the summit contributed to an understanding by the administration that it must devise a policy to roll back Iranian involvement in various fronts in the Middle East. Such a policy, if pursued effectively, will enable the Gulf states to ride out the remainder of the Obama administration’s term – an administration with which they disagree about almost every issue in the Middle East in general, and the Gulf in particular.  

 [However] On the day after an agreement with Iran, and given the erosion of trust between Saudi Arabia and the US, the kingdom is liable to seek to mitigate risks by forming a parallel – albeit imperfect – set of relationships with other countries in order to improve its security. Of these possible relations, understandings with Pakistan on the nuclear question are a clear possibility.”

The full analysis was published by INSS, under the title   The US and Gulf States Summit: What Next?, on May 20, 2015

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