John Kerry in Manama
Abdullah Al Alami*
April 6, 2016
The Arabian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) foreign ministers plan to meet with US Secretary of State John Kerry in Bahrain on Thursday, April 7, 2016. This is in preparation for the GCC summit to be held in Riyadh on 21 April, in the framework of the strategic partnership between the GCC countries and the US. The meeting will discuss the results of the joint working groups established by the Camp David summit in May 2015 to strengthen the US-GCC cooperation in political, defense, security and economic fields.
The message to be delivered to Mr. Kerry on April 7 is clear; the need to stop the Iranians aggression in the region and the fight against terrorism.
Relations between the GCC states and Washington, are strong and well-established, but it is not expected that the strategic relations between the two parties are as strong as they were in the past. This came about as result of different visions on strategies, especially those pertaining to the Iranian issue.
GCC countries want the United States to take firm and solid stand towards Iranians’ threats. Yes, Iran is the same country that was once described by the US administration and a number of Western governments as a “terrorist state” and sponsor of terrorism.
At the meeting of GCC foreign ministers with John Kerry in Riyadh on January 23, 2016, Kerry reassured the ministers of the “positive” consequences of lifting economic sanctions on Iran. I expect that Kerry would probably repeat the same assertion, although its credibility is doubtful. Principles of international politics have taught us that the country’s own internal interests are more valuable than any other factors in any relations between any two countries.
As for the fight against terrorism, although certain elements in the US Congress have accused the Saudi government of involvement in terrorist operations against the United States, Washington has lately realized the need to cooperate with Riyadh in the fight against worldwide terrorism.
As long as we're discussing terrorism, Washington has failed in exploiting the temporary rule of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) in Egypt to divide the Arabian Gulf States. The MB allies in both Egypt and Saudi Arabia realize very well that there is no return to the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. The MB has failed to provide any fruitful development programs or ensure stability and security during their one-year rule in Egypt.
Not surprisingly, the US congressional delegation, which visited Riyadh last week was composed of only members of the Republican Party, which was led also by the Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Obviously, the Republicans have begun to establish a road map for dealing with the GCC states.
This is a window of opportunity for the Gulf States to deliver a strong message to the US; that Washington is on the verge of losing its historical allies in the Arabian Gulf. The next US president has to take serious steps to restore confidence and credibility between the two sides.
GCC - US strategic relations were established through decades of fruitful cooperation and common interests. The US remains the first trading partner with the Arabian Gulf States. In this context, I believe that it would be in the best interest of both the US and the GCC countries to promote stability in the region. Time is running out, and other international parties are getting more interested and involved in the region.