Rice, Gates urge Mideast to con­trol borders with Iraq

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Ni­cholas Kralev

SHARM EL SHEIK — Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice and De­fense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, in a rare joint mis­sion to the Mid­dle East, on July 31 urged Saudi Ara­bia and other neigh­bors of Iraq to adopt tougher border con­trols to stem the flow of for­eign fight­ers into Iraq.

The two Cabi­net sec­re­taries also said they found a grow­ing sense of alarm in the re­gion about the prospect of an abrupt U.S. mil­i­tary pull­out from Iraq, given the vi­o­lence and in­sta­bil­ity there.

“What I have be­gun to hear is more and more un­der­tone, even from those who op­pose the pres­i­dent’s poli­cies, of the need to take into ac­count the con­se­quences if we make a change in our pol­icy and the dan­gers in­her­ent in do­ing it un­wisely,” Mr. Gates said, not­ing the de­bate in Wash­ing­ton over the war.

Miss Rice and Mr. Gates said they went out of their way to as­sure Arab lead­ers that Pres­i­dent Bush will make de­ci­sions in Iraq based on long-term in­ter­ests, rather than short-term po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives.

The meet­ing of Mr. Bush’s most se­nior na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vis­ers with top of­fi­cials from eight Arab states was the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s most de­lib­er­ate at­tempt yet to con­vince them that what hap­pens in Iraq will di­rectly af­fect their coun­tries.

“Ev­ery­body rec­og­nizes that, if Iraq is go­ing to be stable against what are very dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, ev­ery­body is go­ing to have to do more,” Miss Rice told re­porters trav­el­ing with her and Mr. Gates af­ter what some de­scribed as an un­easy ses­sion.

“That ‘more’ in­cludes bet­ter border pa­trols,” she said. Miss Rice said that fol­low-on work­ing groups and “maybe even some­thing more per­ma­nent” by Iraq’s neigh­bors “could re­ally make it very hard for for­eign fight­ers to cross those borders.”

U.S. of­fi­cials say the flow of fight­ers into Iraq has helped fuel an in­sur­gency that has tar­geted both U.S. forces and the em­bat­tled gov­ern­ment of Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki.

A key part of the visit by the two U.S. of­fi­cials is to dis­cuss a multi­bil­lion-dol­lar mil­i­tary aid bo­nanza for Wash­ing­ton’s al­lies in the re­gion, which Shi’ite Iran is ac­cused of “desta­bi­liz­ing.”

Miss Rice said the borders in the re­gion “have been per­me­able for many, many decades, if not longer, and so it’s not easy to talk about bet­ter border pa­trols, but peo­ple wish to un­der­take that.”

As­so­ci­ated Press

A man looks at a fuel tanker that ex­ploded near a gas sta­tion in the pri­mar­ily Sunni Man­sour neigh­bor­hood of west­ern Bagh­dad, Iraq, killing at least 50 peo­ple and wound­ing 60, on Aug. 1. Po­lice said the ex­plo­sion was the work of a sui­cide at­tacker.

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