BAGHDAD–U.S. Secretary of Defence Robert Gates called on the international community in general and the countries of the Middle East in particular to provide needed assistance to Iraq on the diplomatic front by re-establishing diplomatic relations and exchanging ambassadors.
Speaking Dec. 13 at the Manama Dialogue security summit in Bahrain, Gates urged participants to stand by Iraq in all political and economic spheres, and to help Iraq establish its presence on the international stage. He also encouraged them to assist Iraq economically by forgiving debts the country acquired during the previous regime and said the U.S. and other countries have already taken the lead to do so.
He said the recently concluded Security Agreement between Iraq and the United States establishes a new horizon for Iraq’s future by reinforcing the nation’s sovereignty and independence. While there has been noticeable improvement in security in Iraq, Gates underscored the need for Iraq to counter Al-Qaeda and all terrorists and extremists in the country. In that regard, he urged neighbouring countries to tighten security along their borders with Iraq, which would help Iraq become more safe and secure.
Gates also said that Iraq’s role in the region will be shaped by the attitudes Arab countries take toward it and called on them to support Iraq’s government by including it in regional economic and cultural arrangements.
Gates then warned of Iran’s influence on Iraq. “We don’t want to change Iran’s regime... We want Iran to change its policies towards its neighbours. We don’t want it to be a source of continuous trouble and strife.” He also called on Gulf and Middle Eastern countries to pressure Iran economically and politically to change its policies.
Gates’ visit to Bahrain included stops in Iraq and Afghanistan to deliver a message from President-elect Barack Obama reiterating America’s commitments to its friends and allies in the region.