President Barack Obama vowed on Thursday to back Gulf allies against any “external attack,” seeking to reassure them of Washington’s iron-clad commitment to their security amid Arab anxiety over U.S.-led efforts to reach a nuclear deal with Iran.

Hosting the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council for a rare summit at Camp David, Obama pledged that the United States would consider using military force to defend them and would also help address Iran’s “destabilizing activities in the region.”

“I am reaffirming our iron-clad commitment to the security of our Gulf partners,” Obama told a closing news conference at the presidential retreat in the Maryland mountains outside Washington.

Obama stopped short of offering a formal defense treaty that some Gulf countries had sought and instead announced more modest measures, including helping them to integrate ballistic missile defense systems, streamlining weapons sales and increasing military training.

With the United States and five other world powers facing a June 30 deadline for a final deal with Iran on curbing its nuclear program, Obama also sought to allay Gulf Arab fears that the potential lifting of international sanctions on Tehran would embolden it in the region and increase the risk of it fueling more sectarian strife.

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