Dubai: US President Barack Obama has said that Gulf states have legitimate grievances about external threats they face, but that the biggest threats they face are “not from Iran” but from within.

Just days afer Obama invited Gulf leaders to the US to ostensibly discuss the April 2 nuclear agreement reached between Iran and world powers, he told the New York Times’ Thomas Friedman that while Gulf states have “very real” external threats, they needed to look within for the “biggest threats”.

“[The states have] populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances,” said the president.

He said that it was part of his administration’s job to help regional states build regional capabilities against external threats and ask “how can we strengthen the body politic in these countries, so that Sunni youth feel that they’ve got something other than [Daesh] to choose from,” he said, referring to the extremist group that has attracted thousands of Arab citizens in its attempt to set up a regional “caliphate”.

I think the biggest threats that they face may not be coming from Iran invading. It’s going to be from dissatisfaction inside their own countries. “That’s a tough conversation to have, but it’s one that we have to have,” he said.

It is unclear if the president will bring up the issues during the Spring summit in Camp David.

The bulk of the interview with Friedman focussed on Obama’s emotional attempt to placate Israelis suspicious of the nuclear deal as well as the personal offense taken by Obama at the suggestion that he was not a supporter of Israel.