Defense News quotes Rafik Hariri Center Resident Senior Fellow Richard LeBaron on the meeting between US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and his Gulf Cooperation Council counterparts:

“As strange as it seems, given the overwhelming US contribution to gulf security, getting all six GCC defense ministers into the same room with their US counterpart was no simple task,” former US Ambassador Richard LeBaron, a senior fellow with the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East and the Brent Scowcroft Center at the Atlantic Council, wrote in an email. “It has not happened since 2008.”

On the plane to Riyadh, according to a news transcript, Hagel told reporters that he planned to focus on “reinforcing capabilities of our GCC partners” on missile defense, cyber security, and air and maritime security.

“No announcements on these specific files came out of the GCC meeting, and certainly nothing new emerged on internal GCC cooperation in these areas,” LeBaron said in the email.

“As much as the United States talks about a multilateral GCC approach, the current focus is on bilateral deals — selling major defense systems to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, although Hagel also proposed in December that the United States would sell defense items to the GCC as an organization,” he wrote. “This was meant to encourage GCC thinking about that idea, not actually selling anything to an organization that has no current mandate or capability to procure defense goods.”

In previewing his meeting with GCC ministers, Hagel noted the need to “continue to reassure our partners” of the US commitment to their defense, LeBaron added.

“Presumably, his session with his counterparts provided some element of reassurance, but the time has likely come to start to view reassurance from both sides of the equation,” LeBaron wrote. “That is, if the United States is going to leave 35,000 troops in and around the gulf for the foreseeable future, if it is going to deploy advanced aircraft to the region and 40 ships to the area, then what are our partners going to contribute? What kind of reassurance do we need from them?”

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