Obama Updates Gulf Leaders on Iran Nuclear Deal
by Aru Pande May 14, 2015
President Barack Obama has updated the U.S. position on the Iran nuclear talks to Arab Gulf leaders taking part in a Camp David summit, in an effort to ease their concerns over the potential deal with Tehran.
U.S. deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes announced Thursday afternoon that summit members had finished their first working session, which was focused on Iran, and continued their talks during lunch at the U.S. presidential retreat outside Washington.
Rhodes said the United States would welcome support from Gulf countries for the nuclear deal, which is aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. But many Arab leaders are concerned it would empower Iran to work in destabilizing ways in the region, and want to upgrade their security relationship with the U.S.
On that issue, Obama sought to reassure Gulf Cooperation Council leaders the U.S. understands their concerns regarding Iran's actions in the region, Rhodes said.
He also said the Obama administration would 'expedite' assistance to Gulf leaders, who are seeking help in developing regional defense capabilities, especially in the areas of cyber-security, maritime and border security.
The administration also said it is open to the idea of granting its GCC partners major non-NATO ally status, which would make them eligible for certain kinds of military assistance.
Asked about the potential for a nuclear arms race, Rhodes said none of the Gulf countries present had given indications they would pursue a nuclear program that would raise concerns.
Tehran has said its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.
The gathering at the presidential retreat about 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Washington will also focus on other issues of instability in the Middle East.
Syria on agenda
Obama and Gulf leaders were to discuss strategies for Syria later Thursday, with the White House open to evaluating the option of a no-fly zone to help with the Syrian conflict, Rhodes said. However, he said the measure is not seen as a viable way to address fighting in urban areas.
He also said the White House has not independently verified new reports of chemical weapons use in Syria.
Late Wednesday, Obama hosted leaders from GCC countries Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the U.A.E. during a dinner at the White House.
Earlier in the day, he held talks with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, where he hailed the "extraordinary friendship" between the United States and Saudi Arabia and thanked the kingdom for its help in the fight against the Islamic State militant group.
Obama administration officials this week dismissed talk of a snub by Saudi Arabia, after Saudi officials said King Salman would not be attending the summit as planned. Of the six GCC countries, only Kuwait and Qatar are sending heads of state.
Rhodes told U.S. government-funded Alhurra television Wednesday that one of the goals of the summit is to examine military capabilities and ways for the Gulf countries to both work together and with the United States.
'We're not looking at a binding treaty like we have with NATO countries, which is something that was painstakingly negotiated and developed over many years,' Rhodes noted, ' but we are looking at a clear commitment from the United States that we will come to the defense of our GCC partners in the face of external threats. And we have shown in the past that that includes potentially the use of military force as we did in the Gulf war.'
Some material for this report came from Reuters and AP.
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