Rep. Ros-Lehtinen
Rep. Ros-Lehtinen Roberto Koltun

Congress has been warned that Saudi Arabia and its regional allies were moving away from the United States, reported the World Tribune. A House subcommittee heard testimony that the Gulf Cooperation Council found the United States unreliable amid its rapproachment with Iran.

The House Middle East and Africa subcommittee also raised the prospect that several GCC states could reconcile with Tehran and damage American interests in the Gulf.

“Now they [the GCC] perceive the administration’s zeal to reach a deal with Tehran as the U.S. selling them out to the Iranians, which would force their hands to cut their own deal with the regime in Iran,” House subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said.

In a hearing on May 22, Ros-Lehtinen warned that the six GCC states would abandon Washington. She said this would threaten counter-insurgency and other U.S. cooperation with Gulf Arab states as well as spark a regional arms race.

“This could up the scales in the region and cause irreparable harm to U.S. national security interests and may even make the extremist problem worse if our partners lose our faith in us and stop cooperating with us to counter this threat,” Ros-Lehtinen said. “The administration must do

more to work with these partners to earn their trust back.”

Senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, Dr. David A Weinberg, told the subcommittee that Iran is sponsoring terrorism in the whole Gulf region and Middle East, and seeks to use Shias in the region as a sectarian tool to expand its influence.

"It is not a matter of talking about a 'Shi'ite Crescent' stretching from Iran out to Lebanon, Iraq and Syria,” he elaborated. “The real danger lies – in addition to this – in Iranian networks in Yemen, Bahrain, Kuwait and parts of Saudi Arabia," he quoted Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Moqrin bin Abdul Aziz as saying to US officials. "GCC countries are right when they say Iran utilizes Shias to threaten GCC regimes and disseminate terrorism. This continues today," the US researcher said.

Reporting on the congressional session, Gulf News cited Weinberg as saying that consignments of advanced arms from Iran's Revolutionary Guard destined to Shi'ite extremists were seized in Yemen and Bahrain. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were also subjected to attacks with links to Iranian terrorist networks. Iranian spy networks were also uncovered in Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

He said GCC countries can not trust any agreements concerning Iran's nuclear program until they make sure it has stopped supporting terrorism and interference in Yemen and the Middle East.

He said Iran provides violent Shi'ite groups in Bahrain with advanced weapons, citing seizure of large consignments of Iranian arms from Iraq and Syria and arrest of Bahrainis who received training in Iran.

Weinberg also raised the prospect that Saudi Arabia would acquire a nuclear weapon from Pakistan and that the United Arab Emirates, which signed a pledge not to enrich uranium, could follow. “I think the linkages between the Saudi and Pakistani military establishments, including in this [nuclear] arena, are extremely close and need be a cause of concern,” he said, adding that the GCC believes that Washington has abandoned its Gulf allies and “ceded its longtime leadership position.” He quoted Saudi Deputy Prime Minister Muqrin as telling U.S. officials that Saudi Arabia was being encircled by Iran and its proxies in such countries as Bahrain, Kuwait and Yemen.

“The GCC countries will continue to doubt the value of America’s 35,000 military personnel in the region if Washington appears unwilling to use its diplomatic might to push back against aggressive activity by their most threatening state adversary,” Weinberg said.

The subcommittee was told that recent efforts to improve Saudi-U.S. relations failed. They included a visit by President Barack Obama to Saudi Arabia in March 2014, in which he met King Abdullah.

“U.S. links with the GCC states have been maintained and nurtured by State Department-led diplomacy and the efforts of the U.S. military with their GCC counterparts,” Simon Henderson, a director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said. “But this is now insufficient. The

Obama administration needs to articulate a more supportive overall policy concerning the Iranian nuclear and Syrian civil war issues in particular.”