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Hagel to reassure Gulf allies that policy and posture toward Iran is firm

MANAMA, Bahrain — U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived here Thursday on a mission to reassure skittish U.S. allies in the region that America’s defense policies and commitments remain unchanged in the wake of a controversial, multilateral nuclear deal with Iran.

Under the terms of the deal Iran reached last month with six world powers, including the United States, the regime agreed to freeze key parts of its nuclear program in exchange for a measure of economic sanctions relief.

But U.S. allies in the Middle East, including Israel, Saudi Arabia and other gulf monarchies fear Iran could be using the deal to strengthen its bid to be the dominant nation in the region.

Hagel’s aides, speaking to reporters Thursday in Bahrain, said the United States’ problems with Iran go beyond the nuclear issue, and that Washington is committed to helping allies defend themselves from a range of threats from Tehran.

Among the proof, they said, is a plan to sell $10 billion worth of weapons to regional allies Hagel announced on previous trip to the Middle East in April.

“There’s a lot of stress here in the region,” said a senior defense official speaking on the condition of anonymity. “There’s a lot of questions, there’s a lot of uncertainties, and Secretary Hagel’s ready to deal with those frontally.”

Hagel will engage in a series of meetings with leaders from the region in coming days, and is scheduled to deliver a major speech at the Manama Dialogue, an annual meeting of Persian Gulf-area defense officials, on Saturday.

carroll.chris@stripes.com
Twitter: @ChrisCarroll_

 

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