U.S., Bahrain Discuss Regional Security Issues
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
MANAMA, Bahrain, Dec. 18, 2010 Regional security issues and strengthening the U.S.-Bahraini alliance were on the table during a meeting between Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al Khalifa and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last night.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said the two men discussed the problems caused by Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
“We have publicly stated the concerns we have with the Iranian nuclear program,” the admiral said during a news conference at U.S. Naval Forces Central Command headquarters here. “From my perspective, I see Iran continuing down the path to developing nuclear weapons, and achieving that goal would be very destabilizing to the region.”
Mullen said a military strike on Iran’s nuclear facility would be destabilizing, and restated the U.S. position to focus on dialogue and let the United Nations sanctions take effect. The sanctions, “have had a very significant effect on Iran, and more rapidly than many of us expected,” the admiral said. “All options have been on the table and remain on the table.”
The Iranian nuclear issue dominates, but the United States continues to be concerned that leaders in Teheran are funding terror groups throughout the Middle East, Mullen said. Iran could be a productive and valued partner in the region, if the leaders behaved responsibly, the chairman said.
Mullen praised the growth of military cooperation among the nations of the Gulf Cooperative Council. “The GCC has grown more and more important,” he said. “That kind of regional approach … is needed. None of us can do this alone. We need partners now and in the future.”
The cooperation has evolved over the past decade, the chairman said. “A regional approach is very powerful in deterring a country like Iran,” he said. The United States has been emphasizing a regional air defense system to the Gulf nations to defend against short-range ballistic missiles that Iran already has, and longer-range missiles the country is trying to develop.
The friendship between Bahrain and the United States is warm, Mullen said, and has been close since it was established 60 years ago. He thanked Bahrain for its support to the international effort in Afghanistan. For the third iteration, the nation is deploying a police special security force command in the coming days.
The chairman also discussed Korea in response to a question. The United States stands by its treaty commitments with South Korea, he said. South Korea is planning to resume the artillery exercise that was interrupted when North Korean artillery hit Yeongpyeong Island. The North Korean fire killed four Koreans, including two civilians.
“We are working very carefully and very comprehensively with South Korea to ensure that stability is sustained there; steps need to be taken to deter the North,” he said. “I think it is important that China step forward and influence actions in Pyongyang. We need to make sure that nothing happens there that escalates. At the same time, South Korea certainly has every right -- as any sovereign country does -- to defend its people, to conduct and exercise like this.”
But North Korea is unpredictable, and will continue to be even more so as Kim Jong-un succeeds his father, current dictator Kim Jong-il. Mullen called the leader a “belligerent, dangerous individual.”