Situations Similar to Libya Unlikely, Gates Says

MOSUL, Iraq, April 8, 2011 — It’s unlike­ly that a sit­u­a­tion like the one in Libya would occur in anoth­er coun­try, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates told U.S. sol­diers here today.
As part of a three-day vis­it to Iraq, Gates vis­it­ed the 1st Cav­al­ry Division’s 4th Advise and Assist Brigade to thank the sol­diers for their work in U.S. Divi­sion North men­tor­ing Iraqi and Kur­dish forces.

Before pos­ing for a pho­to with each of the hun­dreds of sol­diers present –- and hand­ing each a com­mem­o­ra­tive coin with his per­son­al thanks –- Gates field­ed ques­tions. One sol­dier asked whether the recent tur­moil in the Mid­dle East and North Africa could result in mil­i­tary action sim­i­lar to the NATO-led effort under way in Libya.

The rate of the spread of unrest in the region is with­out his­tor­i­cal prece­dent, the sec­re­tary not­ed.

“I was the deputy nation­al secu­ri­ty advi­sor when we went through the lib­er­a­tion of East­ern Europe in 1989, and that went from about Feb­ru­ary until Decem­ber,” he said. “But this is all hap­pen­ing in like 10 weeks, and so I think our over­all approach has to be that we sup­port address­ing these polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic griev­ances. We believe that the demon­stra­tions ought to be non­vi­o­lent, and the actions of the gov­ern­ments need to be non­vi­o­lent.”

With­in those prin­ci­ples, Gates said, each coun­try must be con­sid­ered indi­vid­u­al­ly.

“And I think what has made Libya unique is, first of all, a request which is unprece­dent­ed in my expe­ri­ence -– which only goes back 45 years –- of the Arab League actu­al­ly ask­ing for an inter­ven­tion in the Mid­dle East to take on an Arab gov­ern­ment mis­treat­ing its own peo­ple,” Gates said. “That was then sup­port­ed by a res­o­lu­tion of the Gulf Coop­er­a­tion Coun­cil, and then the U.N., and the demands, frankly, of our allies like Britain and France.

“So it’s hard for me to imag­ine those kinds of cir­cum­stances being repli­cat­ed any­place else,” he added.

After the troop vis­it, Gates had lunch with sol­diers in their din­ing facil­i­ty before leav­ing Iraq to con­tin­ue his over­seas trip in the Unit­ed Arab Emi­rates. He vis­it­ed Sau­di Ara­bia ear­li­er this week, con­tin­u­ing a series of recent vis­its to coun­tries in the region.

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

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