Dec. 18, 2013 - By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS and AWAD MUSTAFA – Defense News
Prince Turki Al Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, last week accused the Obama administration of working behind Riyadh's back and planning other steps in the Middle East.
WASHINGTON AND DUBAI — The White House this week issued a presidential determination to facilitate the sale of weapons to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The move by the Obama administration shows the rapid development in events since Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced plans this month in Bahrain to sell weapons to the Gulf Cooperation Council as a block, as opposed to selling to individual nations within the council.
According to the document issued Monday, the White House wants to confirm the eligibility of the Gulf Cooperation Council to receive defense articles and defense services under the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Arms Export Control Act.
“I hereby find that the furnishing of defense articles and defense services to the Gulf Cooperation Council will strengthen the security of the United States and promote world peace,” the document stated.
The move by the White House follows last week’s announcement at the GCC Summit in Kuwait to establish a Joint GCC Military Command.
According to a State Department official, the GCC is being designated for future sales, however, congressional approval has yet to be established when deals flow to Congress.
On Dec. 7, in Manama, Hagel said the Pentagon “will better integrate with GCC members to enhance missile defense capabilities in the region,” adding “the United States continues to believe that a multilateral approach is the best answer for missile defense.”
Officials at the State Department said that over the past several years, the US and the GCC have explored ways to expand multilateral defense cooperation in response to evolving regional security challenges.
“The United States and the GCC agree on the strategic imperative to building better multilateral defense ties as a complement to the strong bilateral relationships the US has with gulf partner states,” the State Department added.
“The US-GCC Strategic Cooperation Forum, US Central Command-led multilateral exercises and the quarterly Air and Air Defense Chiefs Conference are but a few of the examples of our combined efforts to coordinate at the policy and operational levels.”
Officials added that the determination is the next step in improving US-GCC defense collaboration as it enables the GCC to acquire defense articles to improve interoperability and enhance critical military capabilities, including items for ballistic-missile defense, maritime security and counter-terrorism.
However, the actual provision of defense articles or services to the GCC would be considered on a case-by-case basis, consistent with US law and policy.
Various other international organizations are eligible to receive US defense articles and services, such as NATO, the UN, and the AU. “The designation reflects our strong commitment to the GCC and our desire to work with our gulf partners to promote long-term regional security and stability.”
Despite the significance of the move, analysts view it as an “appeasement to Saudi Arabia.” Theodore Karasik, director of research at the Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis in Dubai, said the recent statements by Saudi officials signified a dissatisfaction with US policy.
On Saturday, Prince Turki Al Faisal, the former Saudi intelligence chief, said in Monaco that the Obama administration is working behind Riyadh’s back and planning other steps in the Middle East.
“The presidential determination shows support for Saudi Arabia’s plan for a unified GCC approach,” he said.
“This support comes within a defense and security sphere in which the GCC are more robustly banded than other sectors, such as economic levels, social policies and others,” he added.
He said Saudi policy is fixated on protecting monarchies while pursuing Bashar al-Assad’s removal, which “does not necessarily jibe with other GCC states points of view.”