Same No More

Deputy Chief Editor
Same No More Same No More

Even before the panic and pandemonium was crafted over the "concerns" of Persian Gulf Arab dynasties terrified about President Barak Obama wanting to normalize ties with Iran after a final nuclear deal, it was amply clear that the morally indefensible US-Arab marriage of convenience is coming to an unpropitious end.  

That the six antiquated Arab regimes lack the international influence and political-military prowess to resolve thorny regional issues where even the US exercises caution, is not lost on Obama. He will take the opportunity today to chart out his plan of action and tell the visiting leaders that the US has to face its future relations with the six Arab governments with realism. The two sides are no more on the same page.  

We are living in very different and difficult times and for all that it was really worth, the status quo in US-Arab relations was simply not sustainable, at least from the point of view of Obama's America.

The Camp David retreat will be a very interesting place to watch. Leaders and/or their reps from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council are Obama's guests for consultations, but the discourse will likely be a monologue: the host will do the talking and the visitors listen. And most of what they will be told will be unnerving, to say the least.  For many GCC rulers the picnic is all but over.     

On the Iran nuclear issue, the president will have pretty little to add to convince the close allies that the highly complex negotiations between Tehran and the six world powers are on track.

He will tell them that he has enough guarantees from Tehran that the deal will stand and help make the Middle East a much safer place than it is today. Security of the GCC is important for the US (but not at any price) and for that, plus other reasons, the sanction ‘snap back’ option against Iran is there if and when needed, the kings, emirs and sheikhs will hear the American leader say in unequivocal terms.  Led by the arriviste Saudis, the high-profile guests and their camarilla will do everything to inculcate pessimism and mistrust in Obama about Iran and its plans, and they will try to either derail the final nuclear agreement or delay it further. From what is known about Obama’s strategy in putting a permanent end to the nuclear dispute, the Arab move will be an exercise in futility. Even the Congress and Israel were unable to push Obama to change course.

Contradictions and controversies over critical Mideast issues notwithstanding, plus the sparsely reported truths about the deteriorating health of King Salman of Saudi Arabia suffering from advanced stages of dementia, it is worthy of mention that the Arab fear has little to do with Iran and more with what Obama said just a few weeks ago about the deteriorating conditions inside the oil dynasties whose rulers survive in a perpetual state of fear and insecurity.

Without indulging in diplomatic niceties and tired clichés, Obama warned America’s six Arab allies that time was not on their side and that they are walking a slippery slope. In a talk with the New York Times in April, the president said, “I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran…It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries. That’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that we have to have.” This is at the heart of the rare summit at Camp David. And that was the last thing the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE, Bahrain, Qatar and Oman wanted to hear from their closest western backer. When was the first, or the last, time a sitting American president told the authoritarian monarchs that the political tectonic plates were shifting in their supposedly lands of plenty?

Over the recent past the Obama White House has made it known to these regimes that what they want and say is less important for the chief executive and his increasingly circumspect foreign policy. So they have to learn to settle for less. After all stable oil supplies at low cost were once a major concern in the US-led western capitals. Cheap oil then was a key determinant in US-GCC relations, a quid pro quo.  No more. And mind you unlike the former US war president George Bush, the incumbent is not an oilman.

If there is a semblance of fairness and candor in Obama’s psyche, he will not hesitate to inform most of his guests, the petulant Saudi royalty in particular, that for almost 35 years they (albeit enabled by the US) have resorted to all venues to weaken and destabilize Iran. First with petrodollars (at least $100 billion) and later poison gas they gave the former dictator Saddam Hussein during the bloody 1980-88 Iraqi-imposed war to kill and maim Iranians. More than a million people died on both sides in that military conflict bankrolled and abetted largely by most, if not all, GCC treasuries.

When that did not work, they unleashed terror outfits, ultra-extremist religious groups and mercenaries of various stripes to make life more difficult for Iranians. They made a strategic error of judgment three decades ago and are now paying a colossal price so conspicuous in their desperation and political degeneration.