By Arab News
By Ghazanfar Ali Khan
Cementing GCC-US ties through dialogue and diplomacy will be the main objective of the Gulf bloc’s summit meeting with President Obama tomorrow, said Abdullatif Al-Zayani, GCC secretary-general, on Tuesday.
The summit will be preceded by talks between Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman and Obama today.
Al-Zayani said that the summit would focus on peace and security in the Gulf and the Middle East besides economic partnership and development. “The summit is designed as a demonstration of the inviolability of relationship between the Gulf states and Washington against the backdrop of the deal with Iran and the turmoil in the region.”
The summit comes at the invitation of King Salman, said Al-Zayani, who called on the king on Tuesday to brief him about the preparations of the summit. The agenda of the meeting of GCC heads of state and US president range from bilateral relationship to a number of regional and international issues like terrorism, Syria, Iran, Yemen and Iraq. But, both sides have evinced keen interest to boost counterterrorism cooperation. To this end, it is important to note that senior GCC and US officials met at the GCC General Secretariat here Tuesday to discuss the line of action.
Iran’s interference in the internal affairs of the GCC countries and its continued support to terrorist groups will also figure in the talks. The GCC chief said the summit would review political and security situations in the region besides other issues of common interests at regional and international levels.
Saleh Al-Khathlan, vice president of the Riyadh-based National Society for Human Rights, said that all the talk about Saudi-American disagreement is just exaggeration, and shows little knowledge of the true nature of the Washington-Riyadh relationship that spans seven decades.
“Yes, there are differences in viewpoints between President Obama and Saudi leadership over Iran policy and the way to go about on regional issues like Syria, but such differences don’t mean disagreements, let alone threat to the future of ties,” said Al-Khathlan. He added that Saudi Arabia and the US “need each other and security concerns of both necessitates continuing cooperation.”
Referring to the need to restore peace and security in the Gulf and the Middle East in general, the NSHR deputy chief, said that “security in the GCC countries can’t be maintained without American support.” On the other hand, fighting Daesh, which has become number one issue on the US foreign policy agenda in the region, can’t be achieved “without the logistics support from Saudi Arabia,” he observed.
“As for oil I can say that the US may have become less dependent on Gulf oil, but as promoter of the world liberal economic order I can’t under-estimate the importance of Saudi and Gulf oil for the world economy, and hence, maintaining the free flow of oil will always be a top priority for the US,” said Al-Khathlan, who is also a senior faculty member at the Riyadh-based King Saud University (KSU).
“This, in turn, also necessitates to ensure cordial relationship between the US and the GCC bloc despite the US pivoting toward Asia,” said the NSHR deputy chief. He said that “one thing that would help Saudis and Americans to reinvigorate their relationship is for them to understand that the scope of relationship has now become wider to include issues like political reforms and human rights that were once taboo.”
“Even though Obama was the first American president to go public on this issue (twice; once with Thomas Friedman and the other with Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic Magazine), we shouldn’t expect that it will disappear once Obama leaves the White House,” said Al-Khathlan. “Reforms and rights have become constant components of western policies toward the whole region,” he noted.
Al-Khathlan, at the same time, expressed grave concerns over Iran and its belligerent policies, which have not been checked by the US. “As for the American side, they should not underestimate the concerns of Saudis about Iran’s bad intentions, sabotaging behavior and meddling in the affairs of the Arab world,” said the NSHR deputy chief. “Once the US does so, we will heed president Obama’s advice and share the best practices of neighborliness with Iran,” he added
He said that “Saudi Arabia and the US may not be allies in the full meaning of the word, but they can’t go or march ahead without a strategic partnership.”
“No doubt, President Obama visit to Saudi Arabia is another milestone in the Saudi-US relations,” said Hamad S. Alomar, a Saudi commentator, political analyst and writer, who works as chief audit officer at the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), while speaking about Saudi-US and GCC-US summit meetings in Riyadh on Wednesday and Thursday.
Alomar said that “the two countries have been partners in good and hard times…the relationship has been strong and the genesis of this relation goes back to the meeting between the late King Abdulaziz and the late US president Franklin D. Roosevelt more than 70 years ago.” “The two countries have a major role to play in world peace and stability,” said Alomar, while referring to the ongoing drive to fight terrorism in which both countries — the Kingdom and the US — are equal stakeholders.
“The US with its economic and military power and Saudi Arabia, which is the birth place of Islam with King Salman being the custodian of Islam’s two holy mosques; have had complementary roles to play on global issues including terrorism,” said the Saudi political analyst.
He said that the Kingdom had been a stable energy supplier to a large number of countries, which go a long way in fueling growth and promoting sustainable development.