Al-Monitor: In the old days, the Iranians and the Saudis used to talk to each other and resolve issues. Now, this is a missing piece.
Patterson: It goes back 20 years [to Lebanon]. This is a missing piece. And so the proxy war has gotten a lot worse and you see it all over now in frankly scary dimensions. But it wasn’t that long ago when they had some kind of relationship. … They never liked each other, but they weren’t at this level of animosity.
Al-Monitor: There have been some incredibly anti-American statements lately in Egypt. [Former parliament member and current Al-Osboa editor] Mustafa Bakri openly called last week for attacks against Americans. What are we doing to counter this?
Patterson: We complain to the government. Mr. Bakri did sort of back off that statement. But now there has been a rash of hugely anti-American stuff in the press. This ebbs and flows, … [but] it’s really a quite dangerous game, because you fan up public opinion and then you’re hostage to public opinion.
Al-Monitor: Let’s turn to Egypt. General, now Field Marshal [Abdel Fattah] al-Sisi seems on his way to becoming Egypt’s next president. How would you characterize our relationship with him and the Egyptian government at this point?
Patterson: Personal relationships with him have been good — certainly with ambassadors, including me and with [Defense] Secretary [Chuck] Hagel and with Secretary Kerry and a lot of people on the Hill. But it’s certainly no secret that we’re concerned about freedom of the press, freedom of association, all the fundamentals that are being thrown into question right now in Egypt, not to mention the huge economic issues.
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It’s like 1979. The Arab Spring has changed the situation entirely in the region all at once. … It looks like a mess … but if some of this can be successful, … it will change the chessboard. … So let’s hold out hope that some of this will work.
The Gulf Cooperation Council has approved the formation a unified military command structure, announcing the move in a closing statement of a two-day annual Gulf summit held in Kuwait City on Wednesday.
The bloc also agreed on the formation of a unified police force, to protect the six-member council from security threats posed to the region.