Sunni Gulf states are seeking security assurances and weapons from the United States in return for their support of any future deal made with Iran over its nuclear program, increasing instability in a region that is already combustible. Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal reported that key Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar will urge the president for new “defensive agreements” with the U.S. and revealed further details on the types of military equipment that the countries will be requesting at the upcoming Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) summit at Camp David on May 14.
In the Journal in April, former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George P. Shultz made the case that any final agreement with Iran will not “serve as a way to dissociate America from Middle East conflicts.” They continued, “As Sunni states gear up to resist a new Shiite empire, the opposite is likely to be the case.” Additionally, many of the leading Gulf states have threatened to acquire nuclear capabilities and have vowed to get whatever Iran gets – further risking nuclear proliferation. Kissinger and Shultz asserted, “Nuclear arms must not be permitted to turn into conventional weapons. The passions of the region allied with weapons of mass destruction may impel deepening American involvement.”
The Gulf states look to secure stronger U.S. security guarantees and bolster their arsenals to counter Iran’s regional aggression and pursuit of nuclear capabilities. The Journal reported that they seek more “drones, surveillance equipment and missile-defense systems” and also want upgrades in their fighter jet capabilities – including the powerful F-35. Such an advanced system – one that has the ability to avoid radar detection and can travel at supersonic speeds - has so far only been reserved for Israel and Turkey. But Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) expressed concern over the Obama administration granting these weapons requests and warned that Congress might stop some of the arms sales. He declared, “We want to make sure that the one and only democracy in the region is never outgunned.” Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said, “I think they [GCC states] have a legitimate concern about Iran.” However, he continued, “We have to make sure that Israel’s qualitative military edge is kept.” According to the Journal, Israel opposes the advanced weapons sales to the GCC states for fear that one day those systems could be used against them.
Despite recent reports of battlefield reversals suffered by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, the embattled dictator is still relatively secure, Jonathan Spyer, director of the Rubin Center, wrote in an analysis published Friday in The Jerusalem Post. Spyer argued that two factors—Assad’s ability to consolidate his rule over critical areas, and Iran’s ongoing support—mitigate Assad’s recent setbacks.
This is the list of rebel successes to date; it is certainly considerable. Just a few months ago, many analysts were pronouncing the side of the rebels to be in its death throes. Their inability to unite, or to stem the influence of Sunni jihadists and corrupt warlords in their ranks, seemed to presage their failure. …
So what has changed? The rebels have gone through a kind of process of natural selection in which larger units have devoured smaller ones, leading to greater cohesion. The rapprochement of Saudi Arabia with Turkey appears to have enabled more coherent organization, support and supply to the rebels in the north.
In addition, two top officials of the Assad regime defected.
Despite these setbacks, Spyer argued, “it would be premature to pronounce the regime’s imminent demise.”
The Assad regime’s biggest liability is its lack of manpower, but this has been compensated for in two ways. F, Assad’s forces are not drawn exclusively from Syria.
Firstly, unlike the rebellion, the regime possesses strong and committed allies. Most importantly, Iran has been willing to mobilize its regional proxies and its own assets in order to offset Assad’s shortage of manpower. Hence, the prominent place of Lebanese Hezbollah fighters on the Syrian battlefield – along with Iraqi Shi’ite militiamen, local Alawite irregulars and Shi’ite volunteers from as far afield as Afghanistan.
While this means that Assad is not primarily defended by his own countrymen, “given the greater determination and cohesion the Iranians have shown throughout the region,” having Iranian proxies may actually strengthen Assad.
Additionally, Assad has retreated to only the most strategic locations in Syria so that he can maintain his hold on power. As long as Assad holds Damascus, the coastal areas, and the Homs and Hama provinces, he will remains secure. As long the regime holds a contiguous area from Iraq in the east extending to the coast in the west, allowing transfer of Iranian-backed personnel and materiel, Assad should be able to maintain his rule.
Spyer also warned that a nuclear deal that would free up more Iranian money would allow Iran to boost its support of Assad. (via TheTower.org)