An Opportunity for President Obama at the GCC

As President Obama’s second term draws to an end he is going to making many “lasts.” His last ride in Airforce One, his last state dinner, and his last press briefing as president. This week, another last is taking place—his last official trip to Saudi Arabia.

But this trip is not simply important because it marks the end of an era for the president. It’s important because it presents an historical opportunity for him to urge our Gulf allies to help end the Syrian conflict and promote a lasting peace.

In preparation for the president’s trip, Human Rights First held a series of discussions with Syrian civil society leaders about what they want the United States to do to help resolve the war and sustain a post-conflict peace that respects human rights. In “High Stakes for Syria at GCC Meeting,” a new Human Rights First brief, we lay out recommendations to the administration in hopes that the president will take action.


  • Control Proxies

President Obama should publicly call for the GCC leadership to use their power to improve the behavior of the armed groups they support, including respecting human rights in the areas they govern.

  • Release Razan

President Obama should make it publicly known that he is calling on GCC leaders to use their influence to secure the release of prominent human rights lawyer Razan Zaitouneh and others disappeared or held by groups they support.

  • Stop the Hate Speech

President Obama should urge his GCC allies to stop the incitement to violence by media based in their countries, and to promote moderate, anti-sectarian voices including Syrian civil society leaders.

  • Ask Gulf Leaders to Support Enforcement of U.N. Resolution to Protect Medical Workers
  • Encourage Gulf Leaders to Contribute More to Helping Refugees

Up to now Washington’s poor level of credibility with Syrian civil society has earned nothing but exasperation. Now the president can use this last trip to leave a lasting impression.


Published on April 20, 2016


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