Abu Dhabi: The UAE and other GCC member countries should work with the international community and build alliances and partnerships to try to influence and move turmoils sweeping the Arab world in the right direction or these turmoils will influence the GCC in the wrong direction, said a former top Pentagon official on Monday.
“The GCC countries have to engage with Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and other countries to provide the kind of stability there and bring security in the Middle East as a whole,” Leon Panetta, former US Secretary of Defence, told the audience at a lecture organised by the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.
Panetta, who served as the 23rd Secretary of Defence from 2011 to 2013, said the GCC has a three- to five-year window to influence turmoils in the Arab world and get to move things in the right direction or they will be influenced into the wrong direction.
Panetta advised the UAE and Saudi Arabia to build their military capabilities, effective force and know-how to defend the Gulf region against any possible threats and confront Iran.
“The GCC countries can also develop that kind of capabilities to provide assistance to Syria,” he said, adding that he had supported a plan to arm carefully vetted Syrian opposition.
Senior American officials have repeatedly voiced concern over the risk of becoming more deeply involved in the Syrian crisis, including the possibility that weapons could fall into the wrong hands.
Panetta said unlike other major powers such as China and Russia, the US can engage with countries around the world to try to defuse crises and bring stability to hot spots around the globe.
He said the US has to continue to play the role of the world leader which engages with all parties to try to bring peace and stability to the world, rejecting any budget cuts or sequestration that would degrade the American ability to respond to crisis at a time of rising instability across the globe.