New York Times: Defense secretary Robert M. Gates met here on Thursday with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates as part of an intensifying American effort to build up defenses with Arab allies and contain Iran’s military might in the Persian Gulf. The New York Times
By ELISABETH BUMILLER
ABU DHABI — Defense secretary Robert M. Gates met here on Thursday with the crown prince of the United Arab Emirates as part of an intensifying American effort to build up defenses with Arab allies and contain Iran’s military might in the Persian Gulf.
Mr. Gates, who is a vital player in the Obama administration’s campaign to put more pressure on Iran, focused in his talks with Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayyed al Nuhayyan on the American effort to seek tougher sanctions against Iran. Mr. Gates told reporters afterward that there was broad support in the Gulf for new sanctions, even though he made no predictions that they would work.
The administration only recently abandoned an attempt to engage Iran diplomatically to persuade it to give up its nuclear program, which Iran insists is for peaceful purposes and Western nations believe is part of a covert nuclear arms program.
“I think there is an understanding that we have to try this, this is the next step,” Mr. Gates said at the Emirates Palace hotel, speaking of the sanctions. Although engaging Iran had produced no results, he said, “the engagement policy served to expose the Iranian government to the rest of the world, in terms of its policies, for what it is.”
Mr. Gates said that studies of situations in which sanctions have worked — he cited anti-apartheid efforts against South Africa as an example — showed that their success “was because there was very broad international support and there were very few cheaters.” There is similar support now against Iran, he said, adding that “the prospects of success are certainly better than in a lot of other situations where sanctions have been applied.”
Mr. Gates’s main message here echoed what he had said during a visit to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday: the United States is committed to the defense of Gulf states that are increasingly anxious about Iran. “It’s rising Iranian interference and covert activities throughout the region in addition to their missile and nuclear programs,” Mr. Gates said.
To calm some of that anxiety — and show resolve to Iran — the United States has in the past two years reached agreements with the Emirates as well as Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain to deploy in each country two American-made Patriot missile batteries, which are capable of shooting down short-range offensive missiles. So far one battery has been deployed in the United Arab Emirates, with a second to be deployed this year.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr. Gates made his first public comments on Northrop Grumman Corp.’s announcement this week that it would not bid for a $40 billion contract to build an aerial refueling plane for the Air Force. The decision leaves Northrop’s rival, Boeing, as the likely winner of a huge Pentagon contract for the plane — and raises questions about President Obama’s plan to foster more competition in the defense industry.
“I wish we had had a competition in which both companies had stayed in,” Mr. Gates said. He then made clear he would keep a close watch on any price increases that might result.
“We will certainly be sharpening our pencil when it comes to negotiating the contract with Boeing,” Mr. Gates said.