President Obama concluded his so-called summit with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council at Camp David yesterday afternoon. He issued a joint statement and held a press conference (video below). Obama began his press conference with a written statement that acknowledged the Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia (and made a pitch for “infrastructure,” exploiting the dead to advance the never ending Democratic pitch for increased government spending).
If the catastrophic derailment is to be put to political use, I think it far more aptly serves as a metaphor for “the work that brought us to Camp David,” as Obama put it. The work was to cool out the members of the GCC about the arrangement in process with Iran. The joint statement asserts the commitment of the United States in this context, and Obama reiterates it in statement prefacing his press conference:
The United States is prepared to work jointly with the GCC states to deter and confront an external threat to any GCC state’s territorial integrity that is inconsistent with the UN Charter. In the event of such aggression or the threat of such aggression, the United States stands ready to work with our GCC partners to determine urgently what action may be appropriate, using the means at our collective disposal, including the potential use of military force, for the defense of our GCC partners.
This is of course perfectly meaningless verbiage, carefully worded to say precisely nothing. And yet Obama is compelled to say in his press conference statement, seeking to persuade those who haven’t been paying attention and thus may be persuadable: “And let me underscore that the United States keeps our commitments.”
It’s the diplomatic equivalent of a politician prefacing a statement with “frankly” — a red flag that what follows is something like the opposite of the truth. Obama’s comments at the press conference — both written and impromptu — are of this quality.
In response to the first question that he took, Obama stated: “There was a concern – a concern that I share – that even if we deal effectively with the nuclear issue, that we will still have a problem with some of Iran’s destabilizing activities. And a number of [GCC representatives] did express the concern that with additional resources through the reduction in sanctions, that was it possible that Iran would siphon off a lot of these resources into more destabilizing activity.”
Obama explained that Treasury Secretary Jack Lew had been on hand to explain that the GCC members need not worry, however, because (1) there would be no sanctions relief until Iran had fulfilled its commitments on the arrangement in process, and (2) “We gave them our best analysis of the enormous needs that Iran has internally and the commitment that Iran has made to its people in terms of shoring up its economy and improving economic growth.” Really. It’s at 12:30 of the video.
The Islamic Republic of Iran commented in performative fashion on the proceedings. An Iranian naval patrol boat fired on a Singapore-flagged commercial ship in the Persian Gulf Thursday. Demonstrating his keen grasp of the situation, Obama deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes noted that it was “exactly the type of challenge” the Gulf nations are focused on.
JOHN adds: Michael Ramirez’s comment on Obama’s summit is, I think, apt. Click to enlarge: