President Barack Obama will be having what he has described as a “tough conversation” with Gulf Arab allies.
In an interview with New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, President Obama said that he was going to promise support to allies in the region but in return he will be telling them to address their own internal political challenges if they want help with their external enemies.
The increasing number of crises that are occurring in the region are leading in instability at a political level.
In the interview President Obama said: “I think when you look at what happens in Syria, for example, there’s been a great desire for the United States to get in there and do something.”
He added: “But the question is: Why is it that we can’t have Arabs fighting [against] the terrible human rights abuses that have been perpetrated, or fighting against what Assad has done?”, referring to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
It was only last week that President Obama pledged to arrange a meeting between himself and the leaders of the six Gulf Cooperation Council states. The meeting is due to take place this spring at Camp David with issues on the agenda set to include discussions about the emerging nuclear agreement with Iran and what this will mean for the rest of the region.
The GCC includes Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Oman and Bahrain. According to a report by Reuters, Saudi Arabia, which sees Iran as its main regional rival, has repeatedly hinted that it would seek its own atomic weapons if Tehran ever did the same.
Iran is the focus of concern for a number of Gulf states but for Obama he intends to talk tough about how these nations intend to build up their defence capabilities while still showing them that they have the support of the US in the event of military action being taken against them.
President Obama said in the interview that the assurance of the support from the US in the case of an attack “…perhaps will ease some of their concerns and allow them to have a more fruitful conversation with the Iranians,” he said.
While Iran may be at the top of the agenda for the Gulf states, for President Obama the real threat to the region actually comes from within their own countries. For Obama the rising levels of dissatisfaction within the counties, especially among the unemployed youth and those that feel they have no outlet to air their political grievances.
Obama said that in conjunction with offering military support, the United States must ask: “How can we strengthen the body politic in these countries, so that Sunni youth feel that they’ve got something other than (the Islamic State) to choose from.
“That’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that we have to have,” he concluded.