President Obama is to hold a summit with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries at Camp David, Maryland on Thursday, to primarily discuss the nuclear deal with Iran and the fighting in Yemen.
GCC member countries Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have sent representatives to the United States, albeit some lower ranking than expected.
The Iran nuclear deal expected to be signed by the June 30 deadline would significantly impede Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon in the next decade.
However, the deal would leave in place Iran’s ability to enrich uranium while lifting current sanctions barring trade with Iran, providing the country with an influx of cash.
Sunni Arab countries claim that if Iran can keep 5,000 centrifugues and its research and development program in place, then they too should be allowed to work on nuclear technology, regardless of Iran’s head start and the difficulty GCC states have in obtaining nuclear technology.
The proliferation of nuclear technology - which may eventually be developed into weaponry - in the Middle East is precisely what Obama sought to prevent when he voiced his support for sanctions for Iran three years ago.
In a March 2012 interview with The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg, Obama called the Middle East “the most volatile region in the world."
"It will not be tolerable to a number of states in that region for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and them not to have a nuclear weapon (...) The dangers of an Iran getting nuclear weapons that then leads to a free-for-all in the Middle East is something that I think would be very dangerous for the world."
However, on Wednesday the New York Times reported one of the Arab leaders - who declined to be named until he spoke with Obama in person - as saying “We can’t sit back and be nowhere as Iran is allowed to retain much of its capability and amass its research.”
King Salman of Saudi Arabia was notably absent from the GCC summit, and sent Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in his stead. The two princes held a separate meeting with Obama on Wednesday at the Oval Office before the arrival of other GCC representatives.
During remarks welcoming the Saudi Arabian representation, Obama mentioned “the crisis in Yemen,” “the progress that’s been made in the fight against [the ISIS]” and the need to address not just “the humanitarian crisis in Syria” but the necessity to “bring about a more inclusive and legitimate government there.”
In addition to King Salman, who cited the ceasefire in Yemen as one of the reasons he could not travel to the US, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa announced he would be attending The Royal Windsor Horse Show in the United Kingdom where he would meet with Queen Elizabeth II.
The heads of the United Arab Emirates and Oman were absent due to health problems, their spokespeople said.