Gates Labels Iran as Problem for Middle East, World
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 8, 2009 Iran is a problem not just for the United States, but for the greater Middle East and the world, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates told the Arabic television network Al-Jazeera in an interview being broadcast this week.
Gates long has wanted to speak with Al-Jazeera, Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said, because the news network reaches the Muslim world in a way no other network can duplicate. The hour-long interview ran in its entirety yesterday and will repeat through the week.
If Iran builds nuclear weapons, it would create an arms race in the Middle East – a truly de-stabilizing move in a region not noted for stability, Gates said. Still, he added, the United States believes the best way to deal with the possible nuclear threat from Iran is through diplomatic and economic efforts, and U.S. officials encourage allies in the region to bring pressure on Iranian leaders to end their program.
“One of the pathways to get the Iranians to change their approach on the nuclear issue is to persuade them that moving down that path will actually jeopardize their security, not enhance it,” Gates told Al-Jazeera’s Washington bureau chief, Abderrahim Foukara.
“So the more that our Arab friends and allies can straighten their security capabilities, the more they can strengthen their cooperation, both with each other and with us,” he said, “I think sends the signal to the Iranians that this path they’re on is not going to advance Iranian security, but, in fact, could weaken it.”
In addition, America is working to strengthen diplomatic and military-to-military relations in the region, Gates said.
Iran has been a challenge for the international community for 30 years, the secretary said, and patience is needed. Still, Iranian leaders have threatened to destroy Israel, and the Iranian government has violated United Nations Security Council resolutions pertaining to its weapons program.
“We want them to adhere to these resolutions, and we are willing to acknowledge the right of the Iranian government and the Iranian people to have a peaceful nuclear program if it is intended for the production of electric power and so on,” Gates said. “What is central, then, is trying to persuade the Iranians to agree to that, and then to verification procedures under the International Atomic Energy Agency.
“That gives us confidence that it is indeed a peaceful nuclear program and not a weaponization program,” he said.