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

Ukraine Purges Interior Ministry Leadership With Pro-Russian Ties

Interior Minister Avakov says 91 people 'in positions of leadership' have been fired, including 8 generals found to have links to past pro-Moscow governments More

US Airlines Point to Additional Problems of any Ebola Travel Ban

Airline officials note that even under travel ban, they may not be able to determine where passenger set out from, as there are no direct flights from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone More

Nigerian President to Seek Another Term

Goodluck Jonathan has faced intense criticism for failing to stop Boko Haram militants More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid