US, Gulf allies still hashing out Iran solution: Obama

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U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to increase the U.S. security commitment to Gulf allies on both military and cyberthreats after talks at the Camp David presidential retreat Thursday.

Obama pledged assistance to the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council in confronting "a full range of threats" in the region—including Iran's nuclear program, a civil war in Syria and threats posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. plans to increase military exercises in the Gulf, work to cut off terrorist financing and seek political resolutions to conflicts, Obama said in a news conference.

"The U.S. stands ready to work with GCC partners to determine what's appropriate," Obama said.

President Barack Obama speaks after hosting a working session of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) at Camp David in Maryland May 14, 2015.
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

The Gulf Cooperation Council is comprised of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Saudi King Salman pulled out of the summit in a move widely interpreted as a snub that reflected Gulf frustration with the Obama administration.

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The White House is working to build support for its potential nuclear disarmament deal with Iran, which has raised concerns in both the Middle East and the U.S. If carried out, a framework nuclear deal could result in the U.S. removing some economic sanctions on Iran, which some have feared will increase turmoil in the Middle East.

At the summit, leaders sought a "comprehensive, verifiable solution" that will not destabilize the region, Obama said. He did not ask Gulf allies to approve the tentative agreement as it has not yet been finalized.

Obama also decried the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, saying the U.S. is working to investigate the possible use of chlorine in bombs in the country. Nearly two years ago, the Syrian government agreed to hand over a store of chemical weapons it was reported to have used against rebel forces.

Obama addressed policy outside the Middle East, including proposed trade pacts that have split the Democratic Party. He said some Senate Democrats hold a different view on the right policy, adding that he would not support a deal that hurts American workers.

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He also touched on infrastructure policy, which has come under scrutiny since an Amtrak accident in Philadelphia on Tuesday left eight people dead.

"Now is the time to get something done," Obama said.

He contended that neither party should use infrastructure for political leverage. He added that he plans to work with Republican leaders on a transportation funding bill.

On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of transportation infrastructure legislation that would cut Amtrak funding by $252 million in fiscal 2016. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, on Thursday dismissed claims that a lack of Amtrak funding could have played a role in the crash.

Reuters contributed to this report