Saudi King Salman to snub ObamaSaudi King Salman may snub President Hussein Obama by not attending the Gulf State's summit that Obama is holding at Camp David this week.
Even before the announcement, Arab media was panning the upcoming summit.Via @JKhashoggi -Saudi king not coming to Camp David, sending CP bin Nayef. Let speculation+tea leaf reading begin https://t.co/wyRipWZGLq— Kim Ghattas (@BBCKimGhattas) May 10, 2015
What can be seen as positive is that Obama decided to address these concerns and objections at Camp David before any deal is signed with Iran, in order for Arab Gulf leaders to pose questions about the nature of the mysterious agreement and its potential repercussions on their nations. There is also a perception among them that the Camp David summit is just a marketing tool, from which Obama wants to promote the deal without making any real commitments or giving any clear answers.But King Salman, as noted above, isn't planning on coming. Maybe because he doesn't believe he's going to get a meaningful commitment to defense from Obama.
Publicly, both sides are stressing the need to strengthen the security cooperation, the common struggle against terrorism, and the imperative of containing Iran’s destabilizing policies. Ideally, some GCC states would like to sign binding defense treaties with the United States, but they know that this is beyond the realm of the possible, given the strong reluctance of the administration and opposition from Congress to anything that could conceivably diminish Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME). Still, some of them will push for a ‘strong, explicit and a written commitment from the President’, as one official said, that if a member of the GCC states is attacked by a foreign power, the United States will come to its defense. But, there is a strong reluctance within the Obama administration to enter into any long term and legally binding military commitment in the Gulf region, at a time when the administration is trying to ‘rebalance’ or ‘pivot’ to Asia, and after more than six years of setbacks and disillusionments in the region ranging from the collapsed Palestine-Israel peace efforts, the failed Libya intervention, the horrendous blunders in Syria, and the unraveling of the political/security structures that the U.S. had left in Iraq before its withdrawal. Publicly, U.S. officials say that there are no plans to reduce America’s high military profile in the Middle East (more than 35 thousand military personnel), but privately, they say that in 10 to 15 years the U.S. should not have more than few thousand military advisors, trainers and technicians involved in intelligence gathering and operating drones.And while the Arab media place much of the blame for their states' inability to get a commitment to their defense on Israel, the real reason why Obama won't commit to defending the Gulf States is much simpler.
But even “something in writing” wouldn't address the Persian Gulf states' biggest problems. Iran isn't going to launch a conventional military attack; the mullahs in Tehran have never invaded any of their neighbors.
Instead, the real threats to their stability — and thus their ability to counter Iran — include their own sluggish economies; the recruitment of young gulf Arabs by terrorist groups such as Islamic State; and the spillover effects of nearby wars in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. Those problems can't be solved with security guarantees, missile sales or tough statements.Oh and by the way, what does it mean to say that you'll defend the Gulf countries if Iran attacks them with nuclear weapons? That isn't really going to deter the Iranians, is it?