|Iran diplomacy must be backed by military power: U.S.||
TEHRAN – Diplomacy with Iran must be backed up by U.S. military might, Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel said in a speech in Bahrain on Saturday, AFP reported.
Hagel promised the United States would maintain a 35,000-strong force in the Persian Gulf region, as well as an armada of ships and warplanes, despite the recent nuclear deal between world powers and Tehran.
Iran and world powers reached a historic deal in Geneva on November 24, according to which Tehran will offer some concessions in exchange for limited relief from the sanctions imposed on the country.
Speaking at a security conference in Manama, Hagel said that Western diplomacy should not be "misinterpreted." "We know diplomacy cannot operate in a vacuum," he said.
"Our success will continue to hinge on America's military power, and the credibility of our assurances to our allies and partners in the Middle East."
The Pentagon "will not make any adjustments to its forces in the region -- or to its military planning -- as a result of the interim agreement with Iran," he added.
In a trip meant to reassure Persian Gulf allies wary of America's diplomatic opening with Iran, Hagel enumerated an array of U.S. weaponry and resources deployed in the region.
"We have a ground, air, and naval presence of more than 35,000 military personnel in and immediately around the (Persian) Gulf," he said.
The military footprint includes 10,000 U.S. Army troops with tanks and Apache helicopters, roughly 40 ships at sea including an aircraft carrier battle group, missile defense systems, radar, surveillance drones and warplanes that can strike at short notice, he said.
The Iran accord topped the agenda in Hagel's talks with Persian Gulf counterparts on Friday, which included a meeting with Saudi Arabia's new deputy defense minister, Prince Salman bin Sultan.
Hagel said he would travel on to Qatar and Saudi Arabia after the conference for further talks.
"Secretary Hagel will travel to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Monday to continue consultations with senior Saudi officials on U.S.-Saudi regional security cooperation," assistant press secretary Carl Woog said.
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