Mullen Continues Middle East Trip in Qatar

DOHA, Qatar, Feb. 21, 2011 — The top U.S. mil­i­tary offi­cer arrived here in the Qatari cap­i­tal today, con­tin­u­ing his week­long trip through the Mid­dle East after con­clud­ing what he called frank, reas­sur­ing talks with lead­ers in Sau­di Ara­bia about wide­spread region­al unrest.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters con­cern about vio­lence sur­round­ing many of the pro-demo­c­ra­t­ic move­ments that have rip­pled through the region – and how Iran might exert its pow­er in the process – dom­i­nat­ed his talks today with Sau­di polit­i­cal and mil­i­tary lead­ers.

The chair­man empha­sized that he does not believe Iran played a role in top­pling the regimes of Tunisian Pres­i­dent Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali and Egypt­ian Pres­i­dent Hos­ni Mubarak or in stir­ring up oth­er protest move­ments. “These are, by and large, inter­nal issues, as opposed to issues foment­ed by some exter­nal force,” he said.

But nonethe­less, Mullen said, the Unit­ed States and its allies in the region are wary that Iran might use the upheaval as a chance to exert influ­ence. He called Iran “a coun­try that con­tin­ues to foment insta­bil­i­ty in the region and take advan­tage of every oppor­tu­ni­ty.”

“There are always con­cerns in this region with Iran. Cer­tain­ly the Unit­ed States has them, as well as all the region­al play­ers,” he told reporters after con­clud­ing today’s meet­ings in Riyadh. “Cer­tain­ly that was part of the dis­cus­sion today with the Saud­is.”

In the Sau­di cap­i­tal of Riyadh, the chair­man met with Prince Mohammed bin Niyif, assis­tant inte­ri­or min­is­ter for secu­ri­ty affairs; Prince Miteb bin Abdul­lah, com­man­der of Sau­di Arabia’s nation­al guard; Prince Khalid bin Sul­tan bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, assis­tant defense and avi­a­tion min­is­ter for mil­i­tary affairs; and Lt. Gen. Qubail, deputy chief of the gen­er­al staff. He also met with U.S. Ambas­sador to Sau­di Ara­bia James Smith and his staff.

Mullen said his talks focused large­ly on the tumult in Bahrain, where a vio­lent week­end left many anti-gov­ern­ment pro­tes­tors dead. “Obvi­ous­ly the Saud­is, in par­tic­u­lar — but every­body in the region — is watch­ing what’s hap­pen­ing in Bahrain very close­ly,” he said.

The Sau­di gov­ern­ment, con­cerned that what­ev­er hap­pens there could spill over to Sau­di Arabia’s east­ern province, has expressed sup­port for Bahrain’s rul­ing Khal­i­fa fam­i­ly and sent a warn­ing to Iran.

“The king­dom of Sau­di Ara­bia stands with all its capa­bil­i­ties behind the state and the broth­er­ly peo­ple of Bahrain,” the gov­ern­ment-run Sau­di Press Agency announced in a state­ment. Sau­di Ara­bia expressed “absolute rejec­tion” of for­eign tam­per­ing in Bahrain’s affairs.

Mullen cred­it­ed Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa’s deci­sion not to use force against the pro­tes­tors and to begin a nation­al dia­logue to address their issues with bring­ing about an appar­ent reduc­tion in vio­lence iover the last 36 hours in Bahrain. “He has tak­en some sig­nif­i­cant, pos­i­tive steps from a lead­er­ship stand­point … to resolve the griev­ances and the con­cerns,” the chair­man said.

The chair­man arrived here today for the sec­ond leg of a trip that also includes stops in Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, Dji­bouti and Kuwait, and pos­si­bly Bahrain.

Tonight in Doha, Mullen will be the guest of hon­or at a din­ner host­ed by Maj. Gen. Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah, the Qatari armed forces’ chief of staff. He has meet­ings slat­ed tomor­row with Sheikh bin Hamad al Thani, rul­ing emir of Qatar since 1995.

From there, Mullen is slat­ed to trav­el to Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates, where he will meet with lead­ers and attend the Inter­na­tion­al Defense Expo­si­tion and Con­fer­ence in Abu Dhabi. Lat­er this week, he will vis­it Dji­bouti on the Horn of Africa, then will con­clude his trip in Kuwait with cer­e­monies mark­ing the 20th anniver­sary of its lib­er­a­tion dur­ing Oper­a­tion Desert Storm.

Although the vis­it had been long-sched­uled, Mullen told reporters trav­el­ing with him, its con­text changed dra­mat­i­cal­ly in light cur­rent events. He dis­missed the notion that his trip shows the Unit­ed States is tak­ing sides in region­al con­flicts, empha­siz­ing the impor­tance of peace­ful res­o­lu­tion to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in the strate­gi­cal­ly impor­tant Gulf region.

“We have a long­stand­ing rela­tion­ship with the lead­ers in these coun­tries,” he said, not­ing his own close ties with their mil­i­tary lead­ers. “That does­n’t mean we don’t all share con­cern about what has hap­pened and look to the future,” he said. “It is real­ly impor­tant that we reaf­firm the rela­tion­ship” and eval­u­ate “what has occurred and how we are going to look to the future togeth­er.”

The chair­man said he would press through­out his trip for all sides in these sit­u­a­tions to show restraint as they work through their dif­fer­ences.

“We cer­tain­ly would like to see what­ev­er hap­pens hap­pen in a non­vi­o­lent way — that where there are dif­fer­ences, they be resolved non­vi­o­lent­ly, and that gov­ern­ments and their peo­ple fig­ure this out,” he said.

Mean­while, in response to a reporter’s ques­tion, Mullen expressed no par­tic­u­lar con­cern about Egypt’s deci­sion to allow Iran­ian war­ships to pass through the Suez Canal. Not­ing that he has tran­sit­ed the canal him­self more than once, the chair­man said it’s an issue for Egypt, which con­trols the canal, to address.

“It is real­ly for the gov­ern­ment of Egypt and the gov­ern­ment of Iran to work that out,” he said.

Source:
U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →