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Press Conference with Secretary Gates from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
March 11, 2010

                SEC. GATES:  (In progress) -- very positive about my meetings both in Saudi Arabia and here in the UAE [United Arab Emirates].  We talked about a lot of things.  We talked about the elections in Iraq and the future there.  There was a lot of interest in my views on Afghanistan and where we were in both places.  We talked a lot about Yemen and the problems in Yemen, both with instability and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the need to support and help the Yemenis.  There was a lot of the bilateral military-to-military relationships.  We obviously have arms sales programs with both countries. 

 

                And then, obviously, we spent a lot of time on Iran and prospects -- you know, the prospect for sanctions, the prospect of sanctions' working, and how we bring pressure on the Iranian government to change their policies.

 

                So that's kind of an overview, but I felt really good about both stops.

 

                Q     Did you sense a willingness on their part to use their economic relationships both countries have with Russia and with China to try to get them to move closer to the U.S. on sanctions?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I talked about that more in Saudi Arabia than I did here, but I have the sense that there is a willingness to do that, yeah.

 

                Q     Did --

 

                SEC. GATES:  Although there's less need, I think, with respect to Russia, because I think Russia's pretty much already there.

 

                Q     So it's China that's the --

 

                SEC. GATES:  It's mainly China.

 

                Q     So what can you do concretely to make the Saudis --

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I think just express -- I mean, what I would like for them to do is, because of the nature of their economic relationship, is to say it's important to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia that China be supportive of these -- of the U.N. Security Council resolution.

 

                Q     Did you talk about the two Patriot missile batteries that are -- that are going in here?  And I don't understand quite the timing of it, as well, that -- you know, Petraeus in -- said in January that there would be an acceleration of the deployment of the missile batteries here.

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I think one is already here.  And the other --

 

                Q     In UAE?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Yeah.  And I'm just not sure of the timing on the second.  We actually didn't spend -- John, do you know, on the second Patriot battery, is that here --

 

                MR.     :  It is, sir.  It's -- but it's not --

 

                SEC. GATES:  -- or coming?  But I know the first one's already here.

 

                MR.     :  It's not deployed, sir.

 

                SEC. GATES:  But the first one's already here.

 

                MR.     :  Yes, sir, it is. 

 

                SEC. GATES:  Yeah.

 

                MR.     :  It's in position.

 

                Q     But you didn't spend a lot of time --

 

                SEC. GATES:  We really didn't spend much time.

 

                Q     Did you bring it up at all?

 

                Q     And when did that first one come in?

 

                SEC. GATES:  I'm sorry?

 

                Q     When did the first one get --

 

                SEC. GATES:  When did the first battery come in?

 

                MR.     :  It's been here over a year -- (inaudible).

 

                Q      Yeah, you were talking to some of them today about the --

 

                MR.     :  And the second one just got in several months ago.  But it's -- it is ready to fire, but it's not deployed.

 

                Q     What about the economic relationship the UAE has with Iran?  This is a place that is the closest across the Gulf from Iran --

 

                SEC. GATES:  Yeah.

 

                Q     -- of just about anywhere and has a historic -- long historic, economic and diplomatic relationship.

 

                SEC. GATES:  First of all, there has been a significant improvement.  And I talked about the desirability of continuing to improve our cooperation in that area.  So one area that I think the leaders in both places welcome was my telling them that what we were really interested in was -- were sanctions that were more focused on the leadership of Iran and on the IRGC [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps] and trying to shield the Iranian people as much as we could from these sanctions, but to focus them on the people that we think are making the decisions.

 

                Q     Doesn't that sort of put the -- place the administration a bit at odds with Congress, who's trying to push through gasoline sanctions at this point?  And I know Hillary Clinton sort of was -- asked them to be -- sort of give the administration some leeway during her testimony, I think -- (inaudible).

 

                SEC. GATES:  I would certainly echo what the secretary of State said.  (Laughter.)

 

                Q     Can I ask you that, about when she mentioned the security umbrella about a year ago and got a lot of heat for that?  Do you think it's -- this is the right time now in this region for that?  It seems to be what everyone is doing when they're coming here, including you.

 

                SEC. GATES:  We have -- we have been developing a stronger security relationship with most of the countries in the Gulf now for several years in terms of air and missile defense and maritime surveillance.  I had a meeting of ministers at the same time I ended my first Manama conference in 2007, where we started to do this and then the Air Force and -- has followed up and CENTCOM has.  So I would say I would describe this as a gradual process of growing ties in the security arena, and particularly in defensive -- in the defensive arena.

 

                A couple more?

 

                (Cross talk.)

 

                Q     Has it accelerated because of Iran?  I mean, is it accelerating?

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I think -- I mean, I think -- I think it's fair to say, at least from our standpoint -- I won't speak for them -- but from our standpoint the obvious -- the reason for the need for these defensive capabilities has been the significant expansion of missile capabilities on the part of the Iranians.

 

                (Cross talk.) 

 

                Q     Some people often question sanctions generally.  And especially focused on Iran, they just don't work.  Is there -- does there have to be -- does the U.S. have to prepare itself for the possibility that Iran will go --

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, first of all, over the years, CIA did a lot of studies on the use of sanctions historically.  And what you find is that in the places where they worked, Rhodesia and South Africa in particular, it was because there was very broad international support.  And there were very few cheaters. 

 

                I think we have that kind of broad international support.  They worked to a considerable extent, not quite as well but to a considerable extent, against Libya as well.  So it really depends on what your purpose is in the sanctions and on the breadth of international support.  And in both of those cases, the purpose being to try and persuade the Iranian government of what their own best interest is, as opposed to regime change or something like that. 

 

                I think the prospects of success are certainly better than in a lot of other situations where sanctions have been applied. 

 

                Q     (Inaudible)  Saudi messages can be difficult to interpret. 

 

                SEC. GATES:  Well, I think -- I think there is an understanding that we have to -- we have to try this.  This is -- this is the next step.  And I said that I felt that the president's policy of engagement had been important, that there was hope that the Iranians would respond. 

 

                But at the same time, the engagement policy served to expose the Iranian government to the rest of the world, in terms of its policies, for what it is.  And I think that has contributed to the breadth of the international support for doing something at this point. 

 

                Q     I'm curious just in your talks, over the last couple of days, what your sense is of how concerned these two states are about Iran.  How urgent a threat do they feel like this is? 

 

                SEC. GATES:  I think everybody -- I think everybody in the region is concerned. 

 

                Q     I know they -- is your sense that they're mostly concerned about missiles, the nuclear program, rising Persian influence in Iraq? 

 

                SEC. GATES:  I think all of the above. 

 

                No, I answered before you finished your last sentence.  I think it's rising Iranian interference and covert activities throughout the region, in addition to their missile and nuclear programs. 

 

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