U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel takes inaugural trip to the Middle East
Hagel will visit Israel, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to show the U.S. is committed to protecting the region from potential conflict and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear threats. Agreements to provide an increase in military capability in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the UAE will also be finalized.
"I'm going to Israel first because it is a nation that has a very special relationship with the United States," Hagel said. "It is a nation today in a very dangerous, combustible region of the world, that in many ways finds itself isolated."
Hagel said that all of the countries he will be visiting during his six day trip are allies of the U.S. and face the same problems as Israel. Although each country has its own challenges, they each face threats of terrorism and non-governmental bodies taking over the region.
Hagel believes all of the countries in the region should work together towards solutions to these challenges, and commented on the terrorist act last week during the Boston Marathons. "If nothing else, it reminds us that all 7 billion of us are global citizens and many of us are confronted by the same kinds of threats and insecurities," Hagel said.
Hagel explained to reporters that one of the biggest threats to the U.S. allies in the Middle East is Iran. They are a state sponsor of terrorism and have the means to develop nuclear weapons. International and United Nations sanctions against Iran are in place, but Hagel plans for the U.S. to be prepared in the event that they do not work.
"I've said, the President's said, all the leaders of the past couple of administrations have said, that the military option is one option that must remain on the table... but the military option I think most of us feel should be the last option," Hagel said.
When asked about Israel's response to nuclear threats from Iran, Hagel said that Israel would need to make decisions to protect and defend itself, and that it has every right to make whatever decisions it sees fit, but that the U.S. would be working with them very closely.