U.S: Iran Diplomacy Must be Backed by Military Power

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Diplomacy with Iran must be backed up by U.S. military might, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said Saturday in a speech addressed to Gulf allies anxious over a nuclear deal with Tehran.

Hagel promised the United States would maintain a 35,000-strong force in the Gulf region, as well as an armada of ships and warplanes, despite the recent deal with Tehran.

Speaking at a security conference in Bahrain, he said the interim deal with Iran to roll back its nuclear program was a risk worth taking but that Western diplomacy should not be "misinterpreted."

"We know diplomacy cannot operate in a vacuum," he said.

"Our success will continue to hinge on America's military power, and the credibility of our assurances to our allies and partners in the Middle East."

The Pentagon "will not make any adjustments to its forces in the region -- or to its military planning -- as a result of the interim agreement with Iran," he added.

In a trip meant to reassure Gulf allies wary of America's diplomatic opening with Iran, Hagel enumerated an array of U.S. weaponry and resources deployed in the region.

"We have a ground, air, and naval presence of more than 35,000 military personnel in and immediately around the Gulf," he said.

The military footprint includes 10,000 U.S. Army troops with tanks and Apache helicopters, roughly 40 ships at sea including an aircraft carrier battle group, missile defense systems, radar, surveillance drones and warplanes that can strike at short notice, he said.

"Coupled with our unique munitions, no target is beyond our reach," said Hagel, in an apparent reference to "bunker buster" bombs designed to penetrate deeply buried targets.

He was speaking at an annual conference organised by the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

U.S. not in 'retreat'

A senior U.S. defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters the speech sent a message of solidarity to Gulf allies while also conveying a warning to adversaries "that any sort of mythology of American retreat is just wrong-headed."

Gulf allies, especially Saudi Arabia, are concerned over a November 24 interim accord between world powers and Iran that offers limited relief from Western sanctions in return for Tehran rolling back elements of its nuclear program.

The nuclear deal has strained U.S. relations with the mostly Sunni Gulf Arab states that view Shiite Iran as a dangerous rival.

The Iran accord topped the agenda in Hagel's talks with Gulf counterparts on Friday, which included a meeting with Saudi Arabia's new deputy defense minister, Prince Salman bin Sultan.

In the discussion, Hagel stressed "the centrality of the defense partnership in maintaining the long-standing ties" between the United States and the Saudi kingdom, officials said.

Washington's reluctance to intervene against Syrian President Bashar Assad, a staunch ally of Tehran, as well as budget pressures and a U.S. "rebalance" to Asia have added to the doubts among Gulf governments about America's staying power in the region.

Hagel acknowledged "anxieties" in the Gulf were running high.

"Questions have been raised about America's intentions, strategy, and commitment to the region," he said.

But he promised the United States "will remain fully committed to the security of our allies and our partners in the region."

Although the Pentagon faced the prospect of steep budget cuts, Hagel suggested the big presence in the Middle East would remain a top priority and largely shielded from spending reductions.

In addition to keeping a robust U.S. force in place, Hagel vowed to bolster the military strength of Gulf states, urging regional cooperation on missile defense.

Hagel only briefly mentioned the popular unrest that has swept aside or challenged regimes across the Middle East.

He renewed calls for a "democratic transition" in Egypt and argued for political "reforms" in the region to ensure long-term stability.

But his overriding focus was on defense ties between Washington and the Gulf states, and he argued that the bonds were as strong as ever. As evidence, Hagel cited more than $75 billion worth of U.S. arms sales to Gulf countries since 2007.

Comments 9
Missing --karim_m3-- 07 December 2013, 09:13

Since Hagel is in Bahrain, maybe he can also investigate the massacres perpetrated by the illegitimate Khalifa regime against the unarmed, peaceful, pro-democracy protesters.

Missing helicopter 07 December 2013, 16:21

You should worry about HA black-shirted shabiha intimidating the population here at home first every time a political situation arises.

Thumb Mystic 07 December 2013, 09:30

U.S Military might yeah right, where was that might when they were gonna bomb Syria? USA can't flex their muscles anymore, they failed that in Syria and they will continue to do that now.

Iran has taken a big political step with the nuclear program and the west got their bellies full of War, and they are not actually starving neither. Last ones whining are the desperate old rich men lusting for more wars.

Thumb Mystic 07 December 2013, 19:07

Lol well, last time US was in Lebanon, they lost 200 marines because of Hezbollah, after that they retreated back into their big war ships. I think your name should be IbnAlQaeda haha

Thumb Mystic 08 December 2013, 00:22

Thank you mother Russia :) Btw those so called "outdated" missiles is enough to scare the hell out of Israel, so i wouldn't use those words as a fact. USA has become weak, because of their wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. They simply cannot afford more

Missing freecitizen 07 December 2013, 15:22

Yeah and the nice Chinese will replace bad US and peace will dawn on the middle east. with the discovery of vast shale oil reserves ib US why earth America would need the middle east anymore? Now China has become the number one importer of ME oil, let's see if they're going to be better than Americans

Thumb arzak-ya-libnan 07 December 2013, 19:22

America will be the largest producer of oil by 2020. There was a report about it not long ago.

Default-user-icon Truth (Guest) 07 December 2013, 22:19

Give the basij a taste of your ammunitions, that's all they understand and deserve ! The most blood-thirsty regime since the 1980's this region has ever experienced. First bloody against their own people, then through surrogate pupets in Lebanon and elsewhere ! Bunch of first class terrorists !

Thumb Mystic 08 December 2013, 01:22

Thats not what happend last time US made big threats about bombing :)