WASHINGTON (AA) – President Barack Obama will use next week’s summit with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) leaders to push the anti-Daesh agenda, the White House said as questions linger over the strength of ties between Washington and the regional bloc.
“There will be a series of discussions about what additional steps our coalition can take to press the case against ISIL in Iraq and in Syria,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Monday of Obama’s April 21 visit to Saudi Arabia.
“I’m confident that there will be a discussion about what additional commitments our GCC partners in particular can make to that ongoing effort,” he added. The GCC is comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Since Obama last hosted the gulf leaders at Camp David in May 2015, the U.S. and world powers signed an accord with Iran regarding its nuclear program, much to the chagrin of Riyadh, and Saudi Arabia has led an Arab coalition in bombing Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
Saudi Arabia severed relations with Iran in January after protesters stormed its embassy in Tehran following the execution of a prominent Shiite cleric in Saudi Arabia.
A lengthy profile of the American president by the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg quoted Obama as saying that the regional rivals “need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace.”
It also said Obama considered some Gulf states to be “free riders”, or those who urge U.S. action, but then show “an unwillingness to put any skin in the game” after Washington intervenes abroad.
Obama’s visit comes as he continues to face pressure to declassify 28 pages of the 9/11 report that some have said suggests the existence of a Saudi support network for the hijackers who flew planes into the World Trade Center towers and Pentagon, while they were in the U.S.
The pages have remained classified for more than 11 years following the report’s July 2004 release.
Speaking to the 60 Minutes television news magazine, former Sen. Bob Graham who co-chaired the congressional inquiry said he believes substantial support for the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, including from the government.
The State Department on Monday warned Americans planning to travel to the kingdom to “carefully consider the risks of traveling to Saudi Arabia.”
“Security threats continue and terrorist groups, some affiliated with ISIL or Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), have targeted both Saudi and Western interests,” according to the agency.