By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Jan. 17, 2007 – Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan dominated conversations between Saudi King Abdullah and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates here today. Gates arrived here from a visit to Afghanistan. He met with the Saudi monarch at a hunting lodge outside the capital, a senior defense official speaking on background said. Crown Prince Sultan also participated in the meeting.
Gates briefed the Saudi leaders on observations from his visit to Afghanistan and spoke about the steps being taken to counter an expected Taliban spring offensive there, the official said.
Gates assured the Saudis that President Bush is committed to making the new way forward in Iraq work. "They welcomed this," the official said. "They clearly want the U.S. to succeed (in Iraq). That's the bottom line."
The Saudi leaders are clearly worried about Iraqi politics, the official said, but "they wanted to hear reassurances from us that we have a strategy, and they expressed their strong hope that we succeed."
The U.S. position is that the Iraqi government deserves support, "and (the Saudi leaders) basically accept that," he said.
The Saudis tend to see the situation in Iraq through the lens of new challenges Iran poses to the region, the official said. "The secretary reassured them that we want an Iraq that is a barrier against Iranian expansion," he said.
In that context, he said, the United States wants Arab allies to help Iraq.
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