The Washington Times reported January 19th that U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates warned that Iran is “overplaying their hand” in their efforts to exploit the difficulties the United States is experiencing in Iraq.
The report said that after private meetings with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Emir Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani of Qatar, Mr. Gates talked about his deep concern over Tehran’s ambitions in neighboring Iraq and across the entire Middle East region. “I think the Iranians are overplaying their hand,” Mr. Gates is quoted as saying. “They have raised real concerns in the region and beyond about their intentions.”
The Times also reported Mr. Gates as saying he had discovered “…no appetite in the region for another conflict.” Mr. Gates is reported to have said as well that recent U.S. deployments in the region were not indicative of impending action against the Islamic Republic. “Our difficulties have given them a tactical opportunity in the short term, but the United States remains a very powerful country, ” Mr. Gates is quoted as saying.
The report went on to quote Mr. Gates as stating the deployment of a second aircraft carrier group to the Persian Gulf was indicative of the intent of the United States “…to remain in the region for a long time.”
Talking about President Bush’s new strategy for Iraq, which includes a surge of 21,500 additional American troops, Mr. Gates said U.S. allies supported the plan, but that many Arab regimes were not sure it would work. “I would say they expressed hope,” Mr. Gates said, the Times reported.
The report also cited a 2004 Council on Foreign Relations study, co-authored by Secretary Gates that urged engagement with Iran to find a solution for the security problems in the Middle East. In response, Mr. Gates is reported to have said that Tehran’s recent aggressiveness and its lack of cooperation over its nuclear program have changed the circumstances. “Frankly, right at this moment, there’s really nothing the Iranians want from us, ” Mr. Gates is reported to have said. “In any negotiation, we would be the supplicant.”
Mr. Gates went on to say, “We need some leverage, it seems to me, before we engage with the Iranians,” the Times reported. “And I think at some point engagement probably makes sense.”
Information for this article was obtained from “Gates Sees Tehran as Overly Ambitious,” by David R. Sands, published January 19th, 2007 in the Washington Times.