Gates Visits Jordan to Thank Ally, Discuss Regional Concerns
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
AMMAN, Jordan, April 16, 2007 Iran and Iraq are set to be lead topics in discussions Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is slated to have with Jordanian leaders during a visit here.
Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates is greeted by Jordanian General Khaled Jamil al-Sarayah, Chairman of Defense, and members of the U.S. Embassy upon his arrival in Amman, Jordan, April 16, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by Cherie A. Thurlby
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Gates arrived here today to meet with leaders of this strong ally in the war on terror and thank them for the “incredible support that they’re giving us both in Iraq and Afghanistan,” a senior defense official traveling with Gates said.
Some 370 Jordanian troops are manning a field hospital in Afghanistan, and another 220-plus Jordanian servicemembers are performing a similar mission in Iraq. In addition, Jordan has trained 40,000 to 50,000 Iraqi national policemen at an Iraqi police academy in Jordan.
“Jordanians have for a long time been a very constructive influence (in the Middle East), and I look forward to continuing that,” Gates said on the plane en route here from Washington.
During this visit, the secretary will meet with Jordan’s King Abdallah and with Gen. Khaled Jamil al-Sarayrah, the country’s chief of defense.
“I look forward to discussing with the King how we can contribute to his efforts and how the Jordanians can contribute to ours, not just in Iraq, but Lebanon, and the Israel-Palestinian peace process, and so on,” Gates said.
Other topics of discussion for Gates and the Jordanian leaders are likely to include the half a million to 1 million Iraqi refugees Jordan is hosting that are posing a strain on the Jordanian people as well as its economic system, and the Jordanian-U.S. military-to-military relationship, the senior defense official said.
“The important message for the Jordanians is that regardless of what happens in Iraq, the United States is in the Middle East for the long term and has been for decades, and we will continue our strategic relationship with the military, as well as the Jordanian people,” the official said.
The official also said Gates is interested in hearing Abdallah’s take on recent Iranian activity, such as the detention of 15 British sailors and Marines and the impact of the March 24 U.N. Security Council vote imposing sanctions because Iran has refused to halt its uranium enrichment activities.
After leaving Jordan, Gates is scheduled to visit Egypt and Israel. As he travels through the Middle East, Gates intends to encourage regional leaders to bring Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his unity government more fully into the political landscape of the region, the official said.
Supporting Maliki’s government is the best way to mitigate Iranian influence in the region, the official said. “We truly believe that’s the most important way right now to mitigate Iranian pressure against not only us, but more importantly the Iraqi government and the coalition that’s operating in Iraq,” the official said.
The secretary will also be talking to the countries about how the United States can help them modify their defense strategies and “transition from the sort of post-Soviet dependency on conventional weaponry to something more expeditionary, something more related toward counterterrorism and the non-state actors that we are all working together against in the region,” the official said.