“Critics, defenders of ’defense umbrella’ remarks argue against formal US commitments in Gulf”

“Critics, defenders of ’defense umbrella’ remarks argue against formal US commitments in Gulf”
July 27 & 28, 2009
     In an interview, Thomas W. Lippman argues that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent comments on a “defense umbrella” for Gulf allies [previously covered here] indicated a “prudent” attempt to establish unified responses to a nuclear Iran while avoiding a regional nuclear arms race. However, focusing on Saudi Arabia, Lippman argues that a formal US defense commitment would be politically costly for both Washington and Riyadh and suggests a continuation of current de facto US commitments as well as security agreements with the Gulf Cooperation Council, of which Saudi Arabia is a member. Lippman also doubts that Riyadh will pursue nuclear weapons (Council on Foreign Relations).
     Emile Hokayem argues that Clinton’s ostensibly reassuring comments may have convinced Gulf allies that the US will accept a nuclear Iran. Hokayem believes that formalizing the already extensive defense relations between the US and the Gulf states will exacerbate regional tensions, arguing that Gulf leaders are satisfied with the “ambiguity” in current US security commitments and that the US should focus on a diplomatic solution to the nuclear issue. However, Hokayem adds that the Gulf states must devise a “serious containment and safeguard system” to deal with a “nuclear-ambiguous” Iran (The National).
     Michael Singh urges US officials to coordinate their messages on policy toward Iran and preview such messages with key allies, arguing that there is uncertainty over Washington’s commitment to imposing harsh measures against Tehran if diplomatic efforts fail. Singh attributes the inconsistencies in US signals to the need to reassure Israel and other allies concerned about US-Iran rapprochement while also convincing Iran, Russia and China that current diplomatic efforts are not simply a pretext for increased pressure in the future (Washington Institute for Near East Policy).
Council on Foreign Relations | The National | Washington Institute for Near East Policy

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