This presentation was delivered by John Hillen at the annual conference in November, 2006.
Policy Presentation: John Hillen
November 14, 2006
Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs John Hillen laid out a new security architecture for US relations with the Gulf Cooperation Council. He stressed the need for multilateral cooperation in seven key areas in order to face new challenges involving Iraq and Iran.
John Hillen began by announcing a new policy for a security architecture in the Gulf region. Hillen emphasized that this new policy is not a sudden change, rather the product of a year’s work with the United States’ close allies in the Gulf. It addresses the new issues in the region as they are projected to develop in the next ten to twenty years, in order to protect the enduring interests of the U.S. and its allies. Hillen agreed with Secretary Rice that regional security in the Middle East has changed since the fall of Sadaam Hussein, and American policies must shift accordingly.
Historically, the U.S. and Iraq have provided counterweights to Iran’s power. A larger cooperative effort is needed to contain Iran because the new regime in Iraq will be strong enough only to defend itself. Hillen stressed that this security architecture must recognize the developing dangers in the Gulf region while simultaneously furthering US political and economic interests. He laid out two major forces causing unrest in the region: anxiety about Iran’s ambitions, rhetoric and interest in regional hegemony, and the need for a “good outcome” in Iraq. In particular, the need for a successful conclusion to the Iraq war binds together some unlikely allies, which provides a solid foundation for a new multilateral program.
The new security structure that Hillen proposed will enhance US and GCC security cooperation in seven key areas. These include: a robust maritime security; a missile defense system to recognize the burgeoning threat in this arena; increased capacity for air defense; increased collaboration in counter-terrorism and internal security; bilateral cooperation between US and Gulf States in counter-proliferation; energy security and infrastructure protection; and regional security planning.
Hillen underlined the importance of multilateral cooperation in all of these sectors as well as the US’s enduring commitment to the efforts.
Hillen also addressed nuclear proliferation in Iran, arguing that the visibility of this security program will serve as a check to its aggression. He cited Iran’s irresponsible behavior, rhetoric, and its nuclear program as attempts to extend its own influence and power. More dangerous even than Iran’s potential deception about its nuclear program, in Hillen’s opinion, is the possibility that perceived weaponization in Iran will spur nuclear development programs and potential nuclear arms races throughout the region.
Hillen was adamant that the US is not seeking a military conflict with Iran and is committed to solving the problems between the two countries diplomatically. The new cooperative security architecture will provide the US with a position of strength in future negotiations. He clarified that the US does not advocate regime change in Iran but supports a shift in its behavior. He expressed hope that Iran would come to see that its behavior weakens its security by hardening the surrounding community.
In response to public questions, Hillen maintained that political and economic reform in the Middle East must not come at the expense of regional security, and that the US is prepared to negotiate with Iran, provided it agrees to American pre-conditions. He highlighted the need for a security structure which reflects all parties’ interests and in which no one power can dominate. In addition, he pointed out that this new security architecture, while similar to previous policies, is unique in its scale, character, and depth.
About this Event
John Hillen offered these remarks at the National Press Club Room in Washington, DC on November 14, 2006.
This event summary was written by Kathryn Wilson. She recently graduated from Amherst College with a B.A. in History and is currently an intern at the George Camp Keiser Library at the Middle East Institute. The summary was peer-edited by Elizabeth McDonald, who is a senior at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and will graduate with a BA in Political Science and Public Policy and a minor in Economics. Elizabeth is currently an intern in the communications department at the Middle East Institute.