What to Expect from the Gulf Cooperation Council Summit – GCC 2015

Ari Zoldan |

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President Barack Obama will be meeting today and tomorrow with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at the White House and Camp David. While the mainstream media and the political blogosphere have been abuzz with analysis, stories, and updates on the GCC 2015 Summit, it's still not exactly clear what’s going to happen. Here’s an overview of what to expect:

1. A Spotlight on Iran

The Summit is beginning with a rocky start, as only two of the six GCC member heads of state—Kuwait and Qatar— actually plan on attending the event. Some commentators have speculated that the remaining GCC member states (Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates) have snubbed the White House by sending less senior representatives as a sign of frustration over the Administration’s efforts to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran. Refuting that view, President Obama’s deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said “we very much feel that we have the right group of people around the table to have a very substantive discussion. These are the people responsible for the security portfolios in each of these respective countries. They are very well known figures to the United States. And, again, it is not at all uncommon for a number of these heads of state to not travel internationally for meetings of this nature but rather to have the individuals who are representing them at this type of meeting."

2. Stronger Security Commitments

Despite Rhodes’ assurance, Al Jazeera America points out that the Sunni GCC monarchies are “nervous about Shia Iran’s growing influence in the region as it backs Syrian government forces and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.” In an effort to assuage concerns, the White House promised to discuss efforts to bolster security in the region. During the White House conference call on the GCC Summit, Rhodes noted that the Summit will feature a “[discussion of] our commitment to strengthening the security of our Gulf partners and our cooperation on behalf of our mutual security interests in countering terrorism and promoting a more stable region. This will include a discussion about the types of cooperation we have on military security and counterterrorism issues, as well as the capabilities that we’re developing jointly with our partners in the Gulf to deal with a range of current threats and contingencies going forward.”

A greater security commitment to GCC members would likely take the form of arms supplies and advanced weaponry, including fighter jets and air defenses, which is something the United States has done before. It remains to be seen whether Israel will oppose such a deal, but Foreign Policy seems to think otherwise.

3. Tighter Cooperation to Fight ISIL

While the GCC countries have already joined the United States in fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), part of the Summit will likely be devoted to discussing further efforts to counter the destabilizing acts of terrorism and military advances for which ISIL has been responsible. The previous GCC meeting in December focused almost exclusively on ISIL, so while this Summit won’t be focused on ISIL, it will certainly be a topic of discussion.

4. A Presidential Press Conference Wrap-Up

At the end of the Summit, we are guaranteed to see a press conference discussing the results of the summit, including renewed strategic partnerships, security initiatives, and collaboration.

****Ari Zoldan is on assignment in Washington, DC. Alex Hantman contributed to this article.

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