Amid Iran warm-up, Obama reaches out to Gulf nations

US-Gulf diplomacy

In an indication that the US will not abandon its Gulf allies amid the West’s rapprochement with Iran, US President Barack Obama has assured that the US would continue to enhance security cooperation with its allies in the Persian Gulf. Mr Obama was in Saudi Arabia to attend two-day summit meeting with the leaders of six Persian Gulf nations.  Some Gulf countries believe that Iran is trying to undermine their security. “Given the ongoing trends in the region, the United States will continue to increase our secure cooperation with our partners in the region, including increasing their own ability to defend themselves,” Mr Obama said on April 20.

Mr Obama visited the Saudi kingdom with a view to overcome a strain in ties between Riyadh and Washington. He added that Gulf leaders attending the regional summit had agreed to step up the campaign against the Islamic State group, but did not lay out specifics. He described the talks as a chance to clear up misperceptions among allies, insisting the US and Gulf partners had “tactical differences” but similar goals. He also said that the US had “serious concerns” about Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region, but warned against confrontation.

“The fact of the matter is friendship and cooperation between the US and Gulf countries have been consistent for decades,” Mr Obama said. He mentioned continuing efforts to fight ISIS and install a functioning government in Libya as examples of current areas of agreement. The meeting took place amid concerns among Saudi Arabia and its closest allies that the US is restricting its involvement in the Middle East, setting the stage for Iran to assert its influence in the region.

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