The official reasons for the altered guest list relate to domestic obligations and travel difficulties. And while this explanation has been touted by the Obama administration, many critics and independent commentators have rejected it, saying that the simultaneous absence of four heads of state represents a coordinated political snub.
On Fox News on Monday, conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer said, “This is a loud statement from the Gulf states,” which expresses anger over the US government’s failure to confront Iranian influence in the region and to guarantee adequate limits on the Iranian nuclear program.
“This is a rejection of the agreement the United States is about to embark in with Iran by the states who are going to be very badly affected by it and who strongly object to it,” Krauthammer added.
In response to a question by interviewer Bret Baier about the possible practical impact of this week’s summit, Krauthammer declared that President Obama is “going to get nothing that is worth anything,” in terms of a security deal with the Gulf States. In this sense, Krauthammer seems to imply that Saudi Arabia and its regional allies will continue to strike out on their own in defiance of US policy preferences, as they apparently did in last month’s Operation Decisive Storm bombing campaign against the Iran-backed Houthi militants in Yemen.
The impact of this growing discard may be serious for the future of United States influence and security in the Middle East. This was suggested by the United Arab Emirates newspaper The National on Monday when it suggested that the whole of US-Gulf relations would be on the line at the Camp David summit.
The National quoted Salman al-Dossari of the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat as saying that this may be the most important meeting between the US and Gulf Cooperation Council countries in 50 years, since it comes at a time when shifting US policy toward Iran is straining the GCC’s trust in its traditional Western ally.
“The US wants exceptional relations with the Gulf states and Iran at the same time, [but] this is an impossible and incompatible equation,” Dossari wrote. As such, the GCC countries seem poised to possibly reject the former strength of their relations with the United States, believing that their interests are no longer safeguarded by what is becoming a divided alliance.
On MSNBC on Monday, Joe Scarborough warned of one specific consequence that may be faced by US and global security in the wake of this situation. “President Obama has to realize that if he carries through with this deal, and Iran moves toward a nuclear weapon… Barack Obama’s legacy in the Middle East will be a nuclear Middle East – from Iran, to Saudi Arabia, to Egypt, to the UAE,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has explicitly stated that it is considering its own nuclear program as a response to the emerging agreement between Iran and the P5+1 group of nations, which Obama’s critics widely believe will be insufficient to constrain Iran’s work on nuclear weapons capability.
Suggesting that the Obama administration should have walked away from the framework nuclear agreement that was announced on April 2, Scarborough emphasized that the Obama administration does not appear to be listening to its allies, including the Gulf States that are “scared to hell [and] scared to death of this deal.”