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Gates On The Middle East And Iran

On a recent trip to the Gulf, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said the United States will continue to defend its interests and allies in the Middle East.

Mr. Gates, who will stay on as Defense Secretary when president-elect Barack Obama assumes office in January, spoke of the pressing problems faced by the U.S. and countries in the Gulf: the need to defeat violent extremism; the necessity of forging a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians; and the importance of helping Iraq secure the gains it has made toward a sovereign, independent and representative government.

On the issue of Iraq's security and independence, Mr. Gates singled out the Iranian government's negative behavior. "There is no doubt that Iran has been heavily engaged in trying to influence the development and direction of the Iraqi government – and has not been a good neighbor. Much of that effort," said Secretary of Defense Gates, "has been focused on training and supplying groups intent on undermining the government – more often than not, through violence and attacks on Iraqi security forces and government installations and officials."

Mr. Gates said the use of "sub-national actors as Iranian proxies" should come as no surprise, considering the financial and military support that Tehran has long given terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah, which violently seek to overthrow legitimate governments.

Mr. Gates also warned of Iran's missile and nuclear programs. "It is clear that Iran has this year tested long-range missiles that can hit any country in the Middle East ... [and] has continued its pursuit of a nuclear program that is almost assuredly geared toward developing nuclear weapons."

In response to the threats posed by the Iranian regime, Secretary of Defense Gates urged the Gulf countries to keep up the diplomatic and economic pressure on Iran by fully implementing the financial restrictions called for by the United Nations. He also asked Arab states to welcome "the new Iraq into the Arab fold. ... Your interests and Iraq's," said Mr. Gates, "are aligned on a number of levels: in the fight against Al-Qaida and terrorism; in the desire to develop a vibrant and resilient economy; in efforts to bridge the sectarian divides in this part of the world; and ... in the necessity to limit Iranian influence and meddling nationally and regionally – meddling that has already cost far too many lives."