Gates warns US adversaries: Don’t test Obama
In a speech to a Gulf security conference in Bahrain, Dec. 13, Robert Gates who has been held over by Barack Obama as US defense secretary, laid out for the first time an authoritative presentation of the incoming administration’s views on key regional security issues. He then flew to Baghdad for an unannounced visit.
His main message was a warning that US adversaries would be “sorely mistaken” to test the new administration in its early days. He said the Obama team had made ample preparations and would be ready to defend US national interests and those of friends and allies from the moment it takes office next month.
About to serve his 8th US president, Gates said he brought a message of continuity and commitment to US partners in the Gulf. “I can assure you that a change in administration does not alter our fundamental interests, especially in the Middle East.
He accused Iran of testing long-range missiles this year that can hit any country in the Middle East, and has “almost assuredly” geared its nuclear program to develop nuclear weapons.
The low-ranking Iranian delegation at the conference heard the defense secretary complain: “Every move seems designed to create maximum anxiety in the international community.”
He called on Arab states to back financial sanctions called for by the United Nations.
They could be even more influential … “by welcoming the new Iraq into the Arab fold,” he said.
Gates’ speech comes as the United States is shifting its priorities from Iraq to Afghanistan, which he visited on his way to Bahrain
debkafile‘s Middle East sources report that although Gates touched on the most sensitive regional issues, he did not lull his audience’s anxieties regarding the future administration’s approach to the most troubling, such as a nuclear-armed Iran, the upsurge of Islamist terror in such places as Somalia and India, the Afghan conflict and the pirates threatening their oil exports – all of which are taking place uncomfortably close to the Gulf region..
On the pirates plaguing the sea lanes around Somalia, the defense secretary said the US would not go after their land bases until it its intelligence is better and called on shippers to improve their security.
One Gulf leaders commented on Gates’ words: “It is not a promise of continuity we wanted to hear from him but change. We were not all that enthused by the Bush administration’s performance and are not looking forward to more of the same.”