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Opinion: Is the Camp David summit a marketing tool for the Iran deal? | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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US President Barack Obama walks to welcome guests arriving for the G8 summit in Camp David, on June 17, 2013. (AFP Photo/Getty Images/Mikhail Klimentyev)

US President Barack Obama is known for his persuasive talents. Indeed, the upcoming Camp David summit may not only ease the minds of the invited Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders and calm the anger aroused by the impending Iranian nuclear agreement; it may also help turn a new page in the history of the region. Still, we in the Gulf are skeptical, because the task seems too difficult and complex to achieve.

Obama’s initiative counts as a positive step following the series of negative measures the Gulf countries believe the US has taken against them during the negotiations with Iran—measures they feel have failed to take into account the enormous risks to other countries in the region. One writer, defending Obama, argues that the president’s open policy of seeking to resolve old tensions is not limited to Iran; after all, he reinstated ties with Cuba after 50 years, without imposing any conditions on Havana.

However, it is wrong to compare Iran to Cuba. Iran is a malignant force, while Cuba is benign and no longer represents a threat to anyone. Tehran’s religious ideology is based on revolution and domination; it took part in the violence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Gaza, Yemen, Sudan and the Central African Republic—and even further afield: Iran has been active in South-East Asia, and involved in bomb attacks in Argentina. Cuba’s hostile military and political activities, on the other hand, ended at the beginning of the millennium, a decade and a half ago.

Both the matters to be discussed, and the intentions of the participants at the Camp David summit, will make negotiations tricky. The Gulf states fear that the imminent nuclear agreement will focus solely on Iran’s nuclear program, thus opening the floodgates for Iran to threaten the Gulf’s very existence.

If the architect of the US agreement wants to reassure everyone around the table at Camp David, he will hear a long list of issues linked to Iran. Many conflicts between Iran and the Gulf countries may arise on land and at sea as a result of the potential vacuum left after the signing of any nuclear agreement—if the United States reduces its military presence or decides to remain neutral. As such, the deal between Iran and the US poses a major threat to the countries of the Gulf region—and is therefore not a source of security and stability, as the White House claims.

What can be seen as positive is that Obama has 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, which Obama wants to use to promote the deal without making any real commitments or giving any clear answers.

What commitments could the US government and other Western countries provide to ensure the security and stability of the Gulf? Arms sales and missile shields will not be enough. The most important thing is to get an explicit commitment that sets the boundaries for any attack from Iran or its allies against the Gulf countries. Such a commitment has succeeded in maintaining the stability of the Gulf region over the past five decades, with the exception of the war waged by Saddam Hussein on Kuwait. Due to this commitment and the American presence, Iran never dared cross the waters of the Gulf.

Moreover, such a commitment would not only help in maintaining the stability of the Gulf and guaranteeing the supply of oil to world markets, it would also be important to an Iran divided by internal conflict between its institutions and leaders. There are two main groups in Iran’s political elite: the first includes extremists who believe in expansion and domination; the second wants to focus on internal reforms and end all foreign exploits. A strong American stance, guarding against Iran’s exploitation of any nuclear agreement and pledging to maintain the security of the Gulf region, would strengthen the position of the second group, pushing Iran towards seeking genuine reconciliation and regional stability.

To be continued . . .