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Obama Tries To Calm Arab Fears Over Iran Talks

President Obama told leaders from Gulf Cooperation Council countries today that the U.S. was committed to their security amid talks with Iran over its nuclear program.

The Associated Press reports that the two sides plan to announce new military commitments, including joint exercises, ballistic missile cooperation, as well as cooperation on cyber, maritime and border security.

"We're really looking at what we can do to expedite the provision of support and capacity building to the GCC," Ben Rhodes, Obama's deputy national security adviser, said.

The monarchs of Kuwait and Qatar are attending the talks with Obama at Camp David, Md. The rulers of Bahrain, Oman, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates stayed behind, but sent influential representatives to the meeting.

NPR's Peter Kenyon reported Wednesday that some Sunni Arab leaders stayed behind because they have doubts about U.S. policy in the Middle East – from the talks the U.S. and its allies are having with Shiite Iran to the crises in Syria and Yemen. Here's more:

"To get some idea of the obsession Sunni-Arab Gulf states have with Shiite-led Iran, one only needs to glance around the region. Many Syrians, for instance, blame the chaos engulfing their country on the brutal government in Damascus or on rampaging groups such as the self-proclaimed Islamic State. But Gulf Arab leaders look at Syria and see one thing - a government propped up by Tehran. "If you ask Yeminis what's wrong with their country, they might point to desperate poverty, a corrupt government, or the al-Qaida extremists who roam the countryside at will. But ask their Gulf Arab neighbors, and the answer is simple - the Houthi rebels battling the government are proxies for Iran. And then there's Iraq. "When the Bush administration was preparing to invade Iraq more than a decade ago, the reaction from Gulf Arab leaders was stunned disbelief. Why, they asked, would our strongest ally hand Iraq over to neighboring Iran, which is exactly what they believe has happened since U.S. forces withdrew. "Add to that outlook the fear that Iran could emerge from ongoing nuclear talks with more money to meddle in the region and shrinking Arab leverage as America grows less dependent on Gulf oil supply, and, analyst Salman Shaikh says, it's easy to see why Gulf States are increasingly taking matters into their own hands."

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