Iran is overplaying its hand in the belief that the US is weakened by setbacks in Iraq, says defense secretary Robert Gates

He spoke at US 5th Fleet HQ in Bahrain Thursday, Jan. 18, where he is supervising US military and naval preparations to stress the US presence in the Persian Gulf and American opposition to Iran’s nuclear plans. He added: “I think our difficulties have given the Iranians a tactical opportunity in the short term, but the United States is a very powerful country.” Gates is also visiting Gulf capitals to underline the US commitment to defend its allies. Washington has been applying pressure on Iran for harboring networks attacking US troops in Iraq. Thursday, Gates met with US and coalition naval commanders in Bahrain to plan operations in the Persian Gulf including the arrival next month of another US aircraft carrier, the USS Stennis with 80 fighter-bombers on its decks and 600 more Patriot anti-missiles, meant as a warning to Iran.
The secretary flew to Qatar for a private meeting with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Later, he visited an air base that hosts a high-tech war room which is the nerve center of all US and coalition air operations through the Middle East and Central Asia. Reporters traveling with the secretary of defense were prohibited from identifying the base or the country in which it is located.
In Tehran, president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in response to Gates’ activities: Iran is prepared for any possibility in the standoff with the West over its nuclear activities.
Wednesday night, Gates spent two hours with King Abdullah and Crown Prince Sultan at a royal hunting lodge outside Riyadh. They discussed Iran’s nuclear aspirations and US military moves in the Gulf and Iraq. debkafile‘s military sources report that the air and naval forces of the six member states of the GCC will hold a joint exercise next month codenamed Peninsula Shield.

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