News / Middle East

In Qatar Talks, US Underscores Support for Syrian Moderates

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel addresses troops on Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Dec. 10, 2013. (DOD / Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel addresses troops on Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Dec. 10, 2013. (DOD / Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo)
Reuters
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel briefed Qatari leaders on Tuesday about the effort to destroy Syria's chemical weapons, and he underscored U.S. support for Syria's moderate opposition.
 
Hagel met with Qatari Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad and Defense Minister Hamad bin Ali al-Attiyah on the last day of a visit to the region to reassure Gulf Arab allies of continuing U.S. support, despite disagreements over Washington's policy toward Syria and its diplomatic overtures to Iran.
 
Hagel and al-Attiyah signed a 10-year Defense Cooperation Agreement that governs interaction between U.S. and Qatari forces and enables the continued assignment of American troops to installations in the area, including the Combined Air Operations Center at Al Udeid Air Base.
 
After signing the accord, Hagel visited the desert base and toured the computer-lined watch floor at the sensitive facility, where troops from 30 nations coordinate military air activity in the region on huge computerized maps showing the Middle East, the Gulf and Afghanistan.
 
“There is no facility like this truly in the world,” Hagel told troops later. “With the technology, the expertise, the leadership, all integrated into almost 30 nations' capacities. That's a huge, huge accomplishment.”
 
U.S. officials have long been reluctant to identify the base and its location, in part because of host-nation concerns, but they said the base is evidence of U.S. commitment to security in the region at a time when Gulf Arab states are seeking reassurance.
 
Hagel's visit to the base capped a six-day tour of the region that aimed to underscore the depth of the U.S. commitment to security and stability in the volatile Gulf.
 
Hagel spoke to Gulf Arab allies at the Manama Dialog regional security forum in Bahrain last week and used his speech to the conference to address concerns about negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program and U.S. reluctance to back rebel groups seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
 
Hagel noted that while the United States is emphasizing diplomacy in regional conflicts, its efforts are backed up by a fierce array of warplanes, ships, tanks, artillery and about 35,000 troops in and around the Middle East.
 
He also pointed to the many U.S. military facilities in the region, including Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain and the Combined Air Operations Center.
 
Saudi Meeting

 
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is greeted by Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz (L) in Riyadh, Dec. 9, 2013.U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is greeted by Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz (L) in Riyadh, Dec. 9, 2013.
x
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is greeted by Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz (L) in Riyadh, Dec. 9, 2013.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is greeted by Saudi Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz (L) in Riyadh, Dec. 9, 2013.
Hagel met with Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, the Saudi defense minister, during a brief stop in the kingdom on Monday evening, assuring him Washington was committed to keeping Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, a spokesman said.
 
Hagel told reporters at Al Udeid Air Base that he spoke with Qatari leaders about international efforts to destroy Syria's chemical weapons and the reasons Washington was focused on narrowly supporting the moderate Syrian opposition.
 
As the war in Syria drags on, forces loyal to Assad have taken control of a highway needed to extract hundreds of tons of toxic chemicals that could be destroyed by the United States under a deal brokered by Washington and Moscow, Syrian state television said on Monday.
 
While divided world powers continue to try to bring rebels and Syria's government together for talks, Islamist militants appear to be gaining ever more momentum in relation to moderate forces backed by the West.
 
Gulf Arab states, notably Saudi Arabia and Qatar, have been arming and helping rebel groups, though the extent of foreign influence over a constantly evolving rebel landscape is unclear.
 
“The opposition in Syria ... is very fractured and it includes terrorist organizations,” Hagel told reporters. “There's a sectarian war dynamic of this. There's a civil war dynamic of this. Iran is supporting various groups in there.”
 
Hagel said the United States supported a resolution of the Syrian civil war that would replace Assad. He said differences over how to achieve that would not divide the United States and its partners in the region.

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs