Obama: Gulf States’ Biggest Threat Is Not From Iran, But “Internal”

The US president said GCC states are struggling with issues such as youth unemployment and “destructive” ideologies.



The biggest threats to the GCC states do not come from Iran, but from internal issues, US President Barack Obama has said.

Speaking to The New York Times, he asserted that the US would work with the GCC to counter external threats, but that they had to work on addressing “internal threats.”

These included “populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances,” he said.

“And so part of our job is to work with these states and say, ‘How can we build your defense capabilities against external threats, but also, how can we strengthen the body politic in these countries, so that Sunni youth feel that they’ve got something other than (ISIL) to choose from.

“I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries. … That’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that we have to have,” he added.

His comments follow an initial nuclear agreement reached between Iran and six world powers in Switzerland late last week after eight days of talks. A final deal is expected to be in place before the end of June. If approved, the agreement seeks to curb Tehran’s nuclear programme for at least a decade and gradually lift Western sanctions.

Soon after the deal was brokered, Obama called Saudi’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al-Saud to discuss the agreement. He also spoke with the leaders of UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar and invited all the heads of the GCC to meet with him at Camp David this spring to discuss the tentative deal.

King Salman cautiously welcomed the deal, and reportedly told Obama that he hoped a final settlement of the nuclear dispute would “strengthen the stability and security of the region and the world”.

A more positive response came from Oman, which served as an intermediary when Iran and the US held secret talks on a possible nuclear deal in 2013.

Oman’s Foreign Ministry called the agreement “a fundamental and important stage on the path to a final agreement by June 30, which opens a new phase towards more security and stability regionally and internationally,” according to the state news agency.

Badr Albusaidi, secretary general at Oman’s ministry of foreign affairs, also tweeted the deal as “a victory for peace and for the diplomacy of peace.”

However, in his interview with The New York Times, Obama cautioned that the deal might fall through.

“We’re not done yet. There are a lot of details to be worked out, and you could see backtracking and slippage and real political difficulties, both in Iran and obviously here in the United States Congress.”