Multilateral Goals of the Latest GCC Meeting

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Sajad Mohseni
Doctoral Student of International Relations; Tarbiat Modarres University

The (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC], as one of the most important tools available to its member states, has been trying to boost its influence and effectiveness during recent years. As a result, one of the most important goals pursued in the latest summit meeting of the (P)GCC in Riyadh was to boost coordination among regional policies of member states, while inviting non-member states to the meeting. In line with this policy, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman called on all member states of the council in his opening keynote speech to develop their relations with the United States. Holding of the (P)GCC meeting on Thursday, April 21, 2016, and inviting the US President Barack Obama to take part in the meeting, proves its special importance at this juncture of time for the member states of the (P)GCC and it seems that both sides, that is, the United States and the (P)GCC members, especially Saudi Arabia, believed that the way is paved for taking bilateral political advantage of this meeting. The title of the conference, which incorporated both the Persian Gulf states and the United States, was, per se, a sign of its members’ willingness to enter the United States into all regional developments in a comprehensive manner and take advantage of it to boost their own military and political power.

On the other hand, Obama’s trip to Riyadh on April 20, 2016, which came at a time that the Middle East was facing a flurry of diplomatic visits, could be taken as a sign of Obama’s special attention to this conference. His trip came after the US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had already visited the Middle East during which he met with his Saudi Arabian counterpart, Mohammed bin Salman at Al-Diriyah palace before conferring with other defense ministers of the (P)GCC member states. As Carter said later, the goal of his meetings was to discuss the latest situation in the Middle East and Iran’s role in regional developments. The arrangement of this process and its regulation by the Saudi side was sign of an overarching move by Riyadh aimed at boosting its regional clout evidence to which was the effort made to work out a “2030 Vision” plan that was seriously brought up by Saudi Arabia, especially Mohammed bin Salman. Therefore, holding of the (P)GCC meeting with the participation of the United States can be considered as a powerful means for its members, especially Saudi Arabia, to achieve their goals in this regard. On the other hand, the United States has been assessing regional conditions through the meeting. The following points can be mentioned in this regard.

Politico-economic viewpoints of two actors: In this regard, one can say that the United States has been, in the first place, trying to assess security conditions in the region the most important evidence to which is participation of Ashton Carter in the meeting and his Middle Eastern visits. In addition, proposing joint military maneuvers between the member states of the (P)GCC and the United States in March 2017 is aimed at both training (P)GCC countries’ forces and preparing them in the face of regional threats.

The second case to the point in view of the latest developments in Iran’s nuclear activities is renewed emphasis by the United States on its commitment to regional allies. In this way, Washington has been trying to maintain regional balance with an eye to the national interests of the United States.

Another one of the most important components that can be taken into consideration here is the assessment of ongoing negotiations in Kuwait to forge a ceasefire between Saudi Arabia and Houthi fighters in Yemen. Simultaneity of these talks with the (P)GCC summit and, before that, with talks between regional defense ministers and their American counterpart, can be very remarkable in this regard.

Considering (P)GCC summit as complementary to Istanbul conference: In order to fight Iran’s regional policies, the (P)GCC’s emphasis in this regard and its effort to raise the issue of Iran’s regional policies in Iraq, and Syria and its support for the Lebanese Hezbollah have been striking. Of course, issues in which Obama has shown special interest included the fight against Daesh, especially in Iraq, supporting the idea of transitional government in Syria and maintaining ceasefire in Yemen.

Striking a balance in US costs, especially for supporting (P)GCC member countries, and the council’s achievements: It does not seem that Obama is interested in supporting political actors that are members of the (P)GCC, especially Saudi Arabia, in all fields because he has always believed in the necessity of balance between achievements and costs. Therefore, the United States has been following an approach based on profit and loss analysis, while Saudi Arabia expects wider support for its regional policies from Washington.

Making an effort to improve economic situation in Arab countries following developments in 2011: In addition to a trip to Egypt by Saudi King Salman to support joint financial plans between Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, has offered to give Egypt USD four billion in aid along with depositing USD two billion in the central bank of Egypt and investing USD two billion in the country’s development plans. Thamer al-Sabhan, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Iraq, has also promised on behalf of King Salman to send aid for inhabitants of the country’s western Anbar province, which proves vast efforts made by Saudi Arabia to get support of crisis-hit countries following developments which took place in Arab countries in 2011. It seems that this effort is a much more effective tool compared to political conflicts for recruiting new allies in the Middle East, especially in view of the economic needs of war-stricken countries. Finally, it must be noted that Saudi Arabia is trying to replace the negative policy that it has been following in the region for a number of years with a positive policy, even with regard to countries like Iraq, where the Islamic Republic of Iran has so far swayed more powerful influence. Therefore, economy, as a more efficient tool needed by post-war countries, can pave the way for the political acceptance of Saudi Arabia in those countries more than before.

Key Words: (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council, Meeting, Barack Obama, 2030 Vision Plan, Saudi Arabia, Ashton Carter, Security, Iran’s Nuclear Activities, Istanbul Conference, Daesh, Balance, US Costs, Economic Situation, Mohseni

More By Sajad Mohseni:

*Saudi Arabia’s Increased Diplomatic Activities and Pursuit of Soft Politics:

*Why Regional Alliances Are Absent Despite Common Interests?:

*Saudi Arabia and the Effort to Ostracize Iran:

*Photo Credit: CBS News

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