With US ties frayed, Saudi calls for Gulf union

Regardless of what Chuck Hagel says, the decisions regarding who or what will stay in the Middle East will increasingly be decided by a region who is taking the reins away from the US. Too much trust has been eroded with taking sides in the war on Syria, let alone witnessing the turning of entire countries upside down, such as Egypt and Libya.

With its decades-old US alliance strained over the Syria war and a nuclear deal with Iran, Saudi Arabia is calling on the Gulf monarchies to unite for their own self-defence.

US Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, visiting Saudi Arabia on Monday, has assured Gulf states that the agreement struck between major powers and Iran on November 24 will not affect the presence of some 35,000 US troops in the region.

But in a speech at the Manama Dialogue security forum in Bahrain, Saudi Assistant Foreign Minister Nizar Madani said “Gulf countries should no longer depend on others to ensure their safety.”

The oil-rich monarchies “must unite under one political entity in order to face internal and external challenges,” said the minister.

“All countries have realised that blind dependence on a foreign power is no longer acceptable. GCC countries must decide their own futures,” said Madani.

Saudi Arabia, long wary of Tehran’s regional ambitions, has reacted cautiously to the nuclear deal reached in Geneva, saying it could mark the first step towards a comprehensive solution for Iran’s nuclear programme “if there are good intentions.”

“Iran addresses us with broad smiles, while at the same time their man in Lebanon accuses Saudi Arabia,” Faisal said in reference to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, who blamed the kingdom for a twin suicide attack on the Iranian embassy in Beirut last month, which killed 25 people.

Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime, and the Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias are battling alongside his forces against the Sunni-led rebels, who are supported by Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has accused the United States of turning a blind eye to the bloodshed in Syria, which has killed an estimated 126,000 people since March 2011.

Full article: With US ties frayed, Saudi calls for Gulf union (Global Post)

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