Regional Issues Top Gates’ Saudi Arabia Agenda
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, March 10, 2010 Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates will discuss Iran, Afghanistan and military-to-military contacts with Saudi officials here today.
Gates, who arrived here after a three-day visit to Afghanistan, is scheduled to meet with King Abdallah and Crown Prince Sultan.
The Saudis are worried about Iran’s nuclear ambitions and the affect that Iran’s Shiia government can have on the significant Shiia minorities in some of the Gulf states, senior defense officials speaking on background said.
Many of the Gulf states are building up air-defense capabilities in response to Iranian uranium research and continued Iranian missile development. And the threat Iran poses also is causing many of the Gulf States – who don’t necessarily get along – to look for ways to cooperate.
“Secretary Gates has said many times that continued Iranian nuclear development doesn’t make them safe,” Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said. The fact that many states in the region are examining ways to share intelligence and radar information and considering other potential forms of cooperation, he added, shows that Gates’ contention is correct.
The United States and Saudi Arabia have had excellent military-to-military relations since World War II. U.S. advisors continue to help in training the Saudi military and National Guard.
Saudi Arabia is one of the largest customers for U.S. defense goods, and officials said they expect that all of these matters and more will be on the table during the meetings.