Obama Set Goals Too High for Gulf Rebalance, Experts Say

Experts skeptical of meeting with Gulf leaders.

— -- The Obama administration is likely to fall far short of the lofty goals it set for itself at Thursday’s summit with Gulf leaders, several experts on the region said.

“There’s a very real prospect that this exercise could end up looking like the February Countering Violent Extremism summit,” Brian Katulis of the Center for American Progress, which is aligned with the Obama administration, said, referring to a 60-plus-country confab that issued a lengthy joint statement with few specifics.

“Something that actually offers a couple of news stories and visuals, but leaves the participants very much perplexed as to what comes next.”

“The purpose of this meeting is to sit down with some of our key partners in the region and to review U.S. policy and GCC policies related to the situation in the region and to determine ways in which we can strengthen our partnership and our security cooperation going forward,” he said.

“This is a fractious bunch, it’s one that actually feels insecure about their own regional and domestic environments, so they need reassurance in various forms,” he said.

“Now the administration has further justification to play down the sorts of things that it will be providing and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is much more of a technocratic summit than a new horizon in bilateral relations,” he said.

But others, including the Saudis, have argued that just because the titular heads of their nations are not attending doesn’t mean they are not taking the summit seriously, however limited its results may be.

A source familiar with the Camp David arrangements said the Saudi representatives - interior minister Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef and defense minister Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman - were more than capable of handling these discussions in the place of the almost 80-year-old king.

“They’re the guys who are going to have the technical wherewithal to really understand and discuss directly the arms deal with Iran and regional security needs,” the source said.