Gates a reluctant diplomat facing Jordanian press
Published: July 28, 2009
At the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan, local journalists waited patiently for U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to take the podium. After all, there are plenty of military connections between the two countries: the U.S. has showered Jordan with hundreds of millions of dollars in economic and military aid in exchange for a solid Arab partner, Jordan has recently build a special operations training facility, and hardware is always on the move in this region.
But Jordan wasn't on the Jordanian journalists' minds. Instead their questions focused where Arab attention is most focused: Israel and Iraq.
Gates arrived in Amman hours earlier from Jerusalem, where he and his Israeli counterpart, Minister of Defense Ehud Barak, gave a joint press conference in which Israel continued to assert it would keep Iran from acquiring nuclear status while the U.S. played an open hand for diplomatic talks. Gates has batted away questions about the peace process as talk for the State Department or the other diplomats in the region, such as Sen. George Mitchell, President Obama's special envoy to the Middle East.
In Jordan, Gates began his conference highlighting King Abdullah's "state of the art" namesake special operations training center, and he highlighted Jordan's role as security force trainers in the Arab world - Gates called it "one example of a broader pattern of regional leadership". And a memorandum of understanding signed last year gave Jordan long-range predictability on U.S. assistance it will receive.
Jordanian journalists were having none of it.They were facingan Obama cabinet member,and thereis a laser focus in this region on figuring out what type of player the Obama-version of the U.S. government will be.
What guarantees did Gates get that Israel strike will not strike Iran? What about the settlements? Is this pullout of Iraq cities real?
Gates said thathe felt the Israelis would allow President Obama's offer of engagement a chance.
"I had every sense the Israeli government had every intent to let our strategy play out," said Gates.
No word yet if the Jordanian press was as convinced.