U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin met Saturday in Manama, Bahrain, with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the Pentagon said in a statement, amid tensions in the Persian Gulf region.
“He underscored the strength and importance of the U.S.-Bahrain relationship and thanked the Crown Prince for Bahrain’s cooperation on critical priorities including maritime security and promoting enhanced regional security cooperation,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
Austin also thanked him “for Bahrain’s leadership role in hosting the Manama Dialogue and providing an important opportunity for international and regional officials to discuss shared priorities and challenges in the Middle East,” the statement said.
“Let’s be clear: America’s commitment to security in the Middle East is strong and sure,” Austin said Saturday at the dialogue.
Officials in the region are concerned about the U.S. commitment to the region, especially since it is seeking to reach a nuclear agreement with Iran and after the dramatic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Austin said U.S. representatives would attend indirect talks to revive the deal beginning November 29 in Vienna.
“But Iran’s actions in recent months have not been encouraging — especially because of the expansion of their nuclear program,” Austin added.
However, the defense secretary also said that “friends and foes both know” the capabilities that the U.S. can deploy.
Austin also asserted Saturday that the U.S. will likely look for a diplomatic resolution because in the Biden administration, diplomacy is “the tool of first resort.”
Quoting former U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower, Austin said, “arms alone can give the world no permanent peace.”