Amid criticism of Iran, US-Gulf summit discusses sale of costly US weapon systems to Arab world!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
US president Obama is hosting the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council at the White House and then at Camp David. King Salman decided abruptly to skip the White House meeting and a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council at the president’s Camp David retreat in Maryland outside Washington on 14th May. The White House has sought to counter perceptions that his absence was a snub that would undermine efforts to reassure the region Washington remains committed to its security against Iran. US officials have said the right leaders were attending the summit, which they portrayed as a working meeting rather than a symbolic get-together.
The White House said Saudi King Salman phoned US President Barack Obama on May 12 to “express his regret” for missing a high-profile summit at the White House and Camp David this week, and review the agenda for the meeting with Gulf leaders.
The Gulf Cooperation Council includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman. The absence of many top Arab leaders, in addition to King Salman, is viewed as a reflection of frustration with Obama’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran and a perceived US failure to support opposition fighters in Syria.
Yemen truce comes into effect as Gulf leaders without the Saudi King Salman headed to Camp David for US talks. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir said a summit between Gulf Arab leaders and US President Barack Obama would focus on conflicts in Syria and Iraq and also on the fighting in Yemen, where a Saudi-led alliance of Gulf Arab nations is bombing the Iranian-backed Houthi militia that control much of Yemen.
The Gulf leaders agreed they need to work with other Gulf States “to build a collective capacity to address more effectively the range of threats facing the region and to resolve regional conflicts.” The White House noted the leaders agreed on the need for urgent humanitarian aid in Yemen.
The US and Gulf officials said the United States and its allies in the Gulf will discuss ways to expedite weapons sales during high-level meetings in Washington this week, followed by a likely trip to the region by a team of US arms sales experts. Streamlining and accelerating sales of critical weapons will be a key topic during the summit, which is aimed at boosting security cooperation with Gulf Cooperation Council members.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter and a key US ally for decades, is deeply worried about the rising Iranian power in West Asia, and has expressed concern at the rise of Iran’s armed allies like Syria in sectarian conflicts throughout the region and Washington’s perceived unwillingness to intervene. Saudi king feels let down by President Obama in acting against both Iran and Syria. “We see Iranian support for terrorist organisations and facilitating the work of terrorist organisations, so the challenge will be in how to coordinate US-Gulf efforts in order to collectively face these aggressive moves on the part of Iran,” Al Jubeir said. Like Israel, unfortunately Saudi Arabia also wants a quick US attack on Iran. When USA refused to oblige Israel, its closest ally in Mideast, Saudi Arabia, in the first place, should not have hoped for a Pentagon attack on Iran for Saudi Arabia’s sake.
USA actively defends Israeli crimes in Palestine with latest arms systems and its UN veto. When Riyadh, annoyed with US disregard for the kingdom’s requests, announced that King Salman would not attend the summit, a move widely perceived as a snub to the Obama administration as it pursues a nuclear agreement with Iran, many brows were raised in Washington. However since the king Salman deputed his two sons to represent him at the Gulf-US summit, US strategists and Obama himself felt some relief.
A five-day truce started on Tuesday in Yemen could be extended if “aid deliveries succeeded and if the Houthis and their allies don’t engage in hostile activities,” he said. The Saudi-led coalition said on Tuesday that a technical fault or human error caused the crash of a Moroccan warplane in Yemen, denying that rebel fire was responsible. “We are definitely sure it wasn’t shot down,” Brigadier General Ahmad Al Assiri, the coalition spokesman said. He said the F-16 pilot, who remains missing, was part of a formation, and other aircraft “did not notice any firing from the ground”. Yemen’s Al Houthi militia agreed for the true but said it had shot down a coalition warplane, shortly after Morocco reported one of its fighters missing on a sortie. It was the first coalition aircraft to have been reported missing over Yemen in the more than six-week bombing campaign launched on March 26.
Meanwhile, an Iranian naval commander said that Iranian warships will accompany a cargo ship bound for the Yemeni port of Hodaida, which is held Al Houthis. The Iran-flagged Iran Shahed cargo ship set sail on Monday and could be intercepted by Saudi-led coalition forces.
Washington said it has already charted the future course of action in Arab world to sell costly arms to wealthy Arab nations, thereby denying any chance for global competitor Russia to sell their less expensive weapons to them.
Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates are already upgrading their existing Raytheon Co Patriot missile defence systems to incorporate new PAC-3 missiles built by Lockheed Martin Corp. UAE is also buying Lockheed’s longer-range Terminal High Altitude Area Defence (THAAD) system. Qatar could wrap up a similar deal worth up to $6.5 billion by early next year, and Saudi Arabia may follow suit in coming years, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
Saudi Arabia is also considering a multibillion-dollar project to modernize its eastern naval fleet, a project that could include new MH-60R helicopters built by United Technologies Corp and Lockheed, and smaller ships based on the US Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship. Initial announcements about the Saudi naval programme could come in late summer, although the exact timing of foreign arms sales is often hard to predict, said one of the sources.
Saudi Foreign Minister told reporters that he expected deeper, formalized discussions on speeding up work on an integrated missile defence system and expediting transfers of weapons to GCC members. Al-Jubeir said GCC countries had already received many sophisticated US weapons, but those transfers could be eased by elevating the status of Gulf countries to that of “major non-NATO allies” or other measures, including executive agreements. “When we have the policy in place, which I think we will … then we can look at the instruments … to ensure the policy objectives are going to be met,” he said. Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said officials would review which specific capabilities were needed to beef up missile defence, cyber security, counter terrorism, and other threats.
Meanwhile, in a move to patch up with an angry Saudi kingdom, the US and Gulf officials said the US President Barack Obama went out of his way to praise two of Saudi Arabia’s top leaders before meeting privately with them at the White House and played down the absence of King Salman, who pulled out of the visit last week. “The United States and Saudi Arabia have an extraordinary friendship and relationship that dates back to President Franklin Roosevelt,” Obama said at the start of the meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in the Oval Office. “We are continuing to build that relationship during a very challenging time,” he said.
The US president called Saudi Arabia a critical partner in the fight against Islamic State militants. Obama highlighted his interactions with his two guests. “On a personal level, my work and the US government’s work with these two individuals … on counter terrorism issues has been absolutely critical to maintaining stability in the region but also protecting the American people,” Obama said.
Obama does not have private meetings on his public schedule with the leaders from the other countries, although a dinner is planned for today for the full group at the White House. Obama said they would discuss how to build on a ceasefire in Yemen and work towards “an inclusive, legitimate government” in Saudi Arabia’s impoverished neighbour, where Iran-supported Houthi rebels have been under attack by a Saudi-led coalition.
President Barack Obama is expected to make a push to help its Gulf allies create a region-wide defence system to guard against Iranian missiles in hopes of allaying their anxieties over any nuclear deal with Tehran.
President Obama could bring Saudi led Gulf states on board by signing a strategic deal, at par with Israel, with Saudi Arabia that would assure Arab nations of sincerity of USA towards Arabs as USA has a similar strategic deal with Israel which in fact makes Arab nations insecure and vulnerable. Saudi kingdom has not been happy about US double standards in Mideast and, therefore, asking the White House to sign the strategic deal but even President Obama has been evading that issue of bilateral ties completely.