President Barack Obama says the United States has an “ironclad” commitment to the security of its Gulf allies and would consider using military force if they were threatened.
The president said the region is going thorough “extraordinary changes” and “great challenges.”
The six Gulf leaders came to the summit looking for reassurances from the president that the U.S. is fully committed to their security.
President Obama Hosts Gulf Leaders at Camp David:
Obama said the U.S. will increase its effort to help the Gulf states meet the full range of threats. This would include more military exercises and assistance in developing missile defense and rapid response capabilities.
The Gulf states have been concerned that a nuclear agreement between their arch rival Iran and major world powers would ease Western sanctions and turn Iran into a more aggressive regional power.
Obama said he is glad that the Gulf leaders are now giving their broad support for a comprehensive and verifiable deal to keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon, understanding that this is also in their interest.
But he recognized that Iran could still continue what he calls destabilizing actions in the region even if the nuclear deal is reached by June 30.
Obama and the GCC also promised to strengthen the moderate opposition in Syria, back the humanitarian truce in Yemen, and work for a two-state solution in Israel – although the president said the chances of a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians appear “distant” right now.
Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates are the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
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 Gulf Cooperation Council officials seemed to have an understanding of the details of the framework of the Iran talks, including the intrusive inspections and transparency measures that will be in place to ensure Tehran abides by the limitations in the deal and is thus prevented from developing nuclear weapons.
“Because we are committed to their security and because we cooperate on the security and stability of the region, it’s important for them to have an understanding of what the nuclear deal is, and of course, we would welcome their determination that a nuclear deal can contribute to the security of the region,” Rhodes said.