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Milley Says Middle Eastern Nations Want U.S. Involved in Region

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Everywhere the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff went during his trip to the Middle East, he reassured allies of the United States' commitment to the region.

Two military leaders look into a small suitcase.
Manama Visit
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa during a visit to Manama, Bahrain, Nov. 25, 2019.
Photo By: Army Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Burden, DOD
VIRIN: 191125-D-HD608-023

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley also discussed the need for deterrence regarding Iran. Milley spoke with military and civilian leaders in Israel, Jordan, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq on this four-day trip.

The chairman did not divulge information from his confidential conversations with foreign leaders, but he did share his overall messages and concerns with reporters traveling with him.

In every country he had receptions and engagements with all leaders. "In all of them, one of the messages … was assurance, commitment, resolve," he said. "I expressed to all the leaders … that the United States continues to value their partnership, and that we have a common cause against common threats, and that we have [to] remain committed."

He said U.S. and partner-nation national security interests coincide, and they all remain committed partners. "We will help them. We won't do things for them. We will work by, with and through them. We will teach, coach, mentor, enable, advise, assist, train and support in many, many different ways," Milley said.

Two military leaders speak to troops.
Israel Visit
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Israeli Army Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, chief of the Israeli general staff, speak with Israeli soldiers in Tel Aviv, Israel, Nov. 24, 2019.
Photo By: Army Sgt. 1st Class Chuck Burden, DOD
VIRIN: 191124-D-HD608-015C

All this can lead to a stable and prosperous Middle East, Central Asia, the chairman said. 

Milley's second major national security theme was deterrence — specifically deterring Iran — and the general restated U.S. policy toward that rogue state. 

He stressed to each of the leaders that the United States is committed to the maximum-pressure campaign in an effort to get Iran back to the negotiating table. "We desire Iran to rejoin the community of nations in a normal way," he said. 

The United States wants Iran to seek diplomatic solutions, but, if forced, the U.S. military provides options to defend U.S. partners and interests in the region, he said.

All of the leaders expressed "clear, unambiguous anxiety" over Iran's aggressive behavior, Milley said. They all talked of Iran's efforts to impede freedom of navigation in the Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman. 

Two military leaders sit in chairs and talk to each other.
Milley Meeting
Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Jordanian Air Force Lt. Gen. Yousef al-Hunaiti, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Jordanian armed forces, in Amman, Jordan, Nov. 25, 2019.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Dominique A. Pineiro, DOD
VIRIN: 191125-D-PB383-001A

They also discussed the Iranian attack on the Aramco oil refinery in Saudi Arabia and Iran's sponsorship of terror groups from Hezbollah in Lebanon to the Houthis in Yemen.

Milley said that in his conversations with the leaders, one request rang out loud and clear: They all want the United States to stay engaged and involved in the region. "All of them view the United States as a valued partner in the region, and they want it to continue," he said. 

In some of the countries — including Saudi Arabia and Bahrain — there has been a long-term relationship with the United States going back to World War II. The U.S. relationship with Jordan has had its ups and downs, but it's rock-solid now. And the United States was the first country to recognize Israel when the country was formed in 1948.

Milley, who left Baghdad today, said he is pleased with the U.S. part of the effort in Iraq, but he said he is worried by demonstrations that have occurred all over the country. He said there is "clearly a government in crisis." U.S. embassy officials said this is an internal Iraqi matter between the Iraqi people and their government.

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