There are summits that do not make any difference, and this was the case with the summit held by the leaders of the GCC countries with US President Barack Obama in Riyadh. The American president wasn’t asked to completely side with the positions of the Gulf states as much as he was asked to translate his words into actions. Is Obama, who is leaving the White House in eight months, likely to transition from words to actions?
Sweet talk remains just that in the end if it is not translated on the ground. For this reason alone, most of the GCC countries took measures that reflect their early realisation of the danger that lies in relying on the American administration, which is concerned with giving advice from a distance and making bold statements without indicating a desire for these words to have any real meaning.
In clearer terms, the Obama administration did not take any steps that could be interpreted as an effort to understand what is happening in the Middle East. Where has Obama achieved a victory, even a relative success, so that we could say that we could rely on him? Is his success in reaching an agreement regarding the Iranian nuclear issue a success? What are the indicators suggesting that Iran has changed after this agreement? All of the indicators suggest that Iran has grown increasingly hostile on every level, armed with the nuclear agreement.
Obama made bold and important statements in Riyadh. This includes his complaints about Iran and its role in encouraging terrorism and instability, especially by means of its regional tools, such as Hezbollah. The problem with Obama is not only that he doesn’t know much about the Middle East, but also that he says something, and the opposite, at the same time. This is based on the fact that he believes those who are around him are naïve.
He also condemned “the Iranian activities that aim to cause instability.” In this same speech, he called for interaction with the forces that possess “rationality” in Iran. However, he did not specify which forces these were and how influential and powerful they are.
We cannot ignore the fact that there are forces in the “Islamic Republic” that have a minimum level of rationality. These forces made progress in the latest elections, and this is something we must acknowledge. However, on the other hand, we cannot overlook the very simple questions: Where have the rational forces been able to make any change regarding Iran’s foreign policy, which is based on an expansion project, on one hand, and the use of Lebanese, Iraqi and Afghan militias affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, to deepen the doctrinal chasm between the Muslims on the other?
There is no lack of areas where Iran could show its good intentions and some rational approaches, but where have we seen any significant influence by the Iranian forces that Obama is calling people to deal with?
It is unfortunate that so far there is no evidence that these forces have any sort of impact. The bearing of these forces is similar to that of Obama in Syria. There is a nation being killed on a daily basis, while the American president stands by and watches. The Syrian nation is being subjected to a brutal attack, unlike any in modern history, and the Russians are participating in this Syrian massacre, as well as direct and indirect Iranian intervention in the genocide targeting the Syrians. Where is the role played by the moderate forces Obama has referred to in ending the Syrian tragedy?
Nothing of the sort has occurred. There is simply a war against the Syrian people by the regime, which has tasked itself with eliminating the Syria we know with direct Syrian participation.
If we put Syria on the side, what is the role that Iran is playing in Iraq? What have the moderate Iranian forces done in order to end the internal war that Daesh has benefitted from and which the American administration is claiming to be fighting? The problem with Obama lies in the fact that he put himself in a position of service to the Iranian project in Iraq, and this project only serves Daesh and the likes. This project is a major catastrophe as it provides a support system for all extremist forces, both Sunni and Shia. How can the Gulf countries deal differently with the American administration after this government, once again, allowed itself to be a base for Iran in Iraq?
Nowadays, the US is rushing to rescue Haider Al-Abadi’s government, i.e. rescuing Iran in Iraq. This comes at a time when Al-Abadi’s government has not, at any point, shown it is able to be non-sectarian, i.e. a government for all of Iraq and Iraqis regardless of their doctrine, religion, nationality and region.
When rationalism prevails in Iran, there will no longer be a need for a Gulf-American summit. What is more natural is for relations of cooperation and coordination to be established between Iran and its Arab neighbours in order to increase the wealth of the region, not in order to divide influence in the region, as called for by Obama in his latest interview with Atlantic magazine. The last thing the region needs is advice from the American president, who seems to have his own agenda based on the idea that Iran is entitled to do what others can’t and that only the Sunni Daesh exists. This view believes that the Shia Daesh members that are fighting in Syria and Iraq are admissible and have no relation to terrorism or extremism. Are some types of terrorism admissible, while others are prohibited?
There is no need to go far in the analysis of whether the Gulf-American summit reached concrete results. There is also no need to address Yemen and its complex problems, or to the attempts made by Iran to put its hands on the country by means of the Houthis. We do not need to wonder why Iran insists on the remainder of Bashar Al-Assad in Damascus merely because he represents the minority government in Syria, a government that is rejected by the overwhelming majority in the country.
There is one more question we could ask Obama, who immediately asked Hosni Mubarak to leave the government naively believing that the Muslim Brotherhood could be the new leaders in the region, perhaps even the region’s future. This question is: Why does Iran prohibit Lebanon from having a president? When the American president answers this question, it would be possible to rely on the moderate forces that possess some rationality in Iran. Otherwise, it seems that calling on the Arabs, especially the Gulf, to deal with these forces is closer to relying on a mirage more than anything else.
Translated from Arabi21, 29 April 2016.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.