U.S. President Barack Obama meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef (C) in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington May 13, 2015. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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U.S. President Barack Obama may fail to pacify Gulf Arab fears over his Iran nuclear diplomacy at a summit this week, following a pointed Saudi snub of the event. But a bigger question looms for Washington: How much does it matter?Obama appears confident Washington has enough leverage to fend off Sunni Arab pressure to do more to stop archrival Iran from intervening in conflicts across much of the region, underlining diverging interests between the United States and its long-standing Gulf allies.By resisting a push by some Gulf Arab nations for new formal security guarantees, for instance, Obama is gambling that the close but often uneasy alliance can weather current differences, especially given long-time Arab reliance on the U.S. military umbrella and advanced weapons supplies.Obama may be further bolstered by America's increasing energy independence, which has made Gulf oil less critical to the U.S. economy.The Obama administration is wary of anything legally binding that could draw the United States into future Middle Eastern conflicts.Even if Obama sends an implicit message that Gulf countries need the United States more than the United States needs them, he still must address fears that Washington is abandoning them at a time of regional upheaval.
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