Gates spoke at the American embassy here following a meeting with King Abdullah and defense leaders.
Gates arrived here after a short flight from Israel, where he met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Jordanian reporters wanted to know if Gates had received assurances from the Israelis that Israel would not launch air strikes at Iran’s nuclear sites.
“They are perfectly willing to allow the process of attempted engagement to go forward,” Gates said. “They know … that this is not an open-ended process, but I had every sense that the Israeli government is prepared to let our strategy play out in terms of trying to use a combination of diplomatic pressures, economic sanctions and other peaceful means to try to get the Iranian government to change its mind in terms of its nuclear ambitions.”
If that engagement process with Iran is not successful, the United States is prepared to press for significant additional sanctions that would be nonincremental, the secretary said.
“Our hope remains that Iran will respond to [President Barack Obama’s] outstretched hand in a positive way,” he said. “But we’ll see.”
Jordan is promoting security in the region by helping to train both Palestinian Authority and Iraqi security forces. Gates noted the professionalism of the Jordanian military, and that it is investing in providing world-class training for its own forces and others in the region.
U.S. Central Command Commander Army Gen. David Petraeus was recently in Jordan for the opening of the King Abdullah Special Operations Training Center.
“That state-of-the-art facility will be the foundation upon which other nations in the region will build their counter-terrorism forces,” Gates said.
Jordan is promoting Arab contributions to a comprehensive Middle East peace including the two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. “I also commend Jordan for leading the way in assisting Iraq as it seeks renewed engagement with its neighbors,” Gates said. Abdullah was the first Arab head of state to visit the new Iraq. Jordan is actively pursuing better economic and diplomatic ties between the countries.
Other countries should follow Jordan’s example and help Iraq fully reintegrate back into the region, Gates said. “This is the only way to forge a stable and prosperous Iraq — a goal that is in all the interests of the Middle East,” he said.
Extremism is still a threat in the region as is Iran’s continued pursuit of nuclear weapons. The United States will provide Jordan with $360 million this year in economic-support funds and roughly $300 million in security-assistance funds. These amounts will remain constant for at least the next few years, the secretary said.