Robert Gates: US should give Iraq 'wide range of military assistance'

But US military aid for Iraq should be contingent on evidence that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is reaching out to Sunnis, says former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Iraq's government is lately battling attacks from Al Qaeda-linked insurgents. 

Michael Bonfigli/The Christian Science Monitor
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, author of 'Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,' speaks at the St. Regis Hotel in Washington Jan. 17, 2014, at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.

Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates served eight presidents in various capacities: White House staffer, CIA director, and at the Pentagon. Mr. Gates was the guest at the Jan. 17 Monitor Breakfast.

How to fix the congressional dysfunction he laments:

"What can be fixed, starting tomorrow, is the way people treat each other ... to treat each other with respect ... to listen ... to not demonize each other....

The Obama administration's opposition to new sanctions on Iran while talks are under way:

"The president is absolutely right to oppose Congress in enacting any additional sanctions right now.... [It] would run a very high risk of blowing [negotiations] all up."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's request for weapons and training to deal with Al Qaeda-linked insurgents:

"If I were sitting in the situation room today, I would recommend that we offer the Maliki government a wide range of military assistance ... conditioning it on his outreach to the Sunnis."

Key presidential qualities:

"One thing that ... is really important [is] ... for the president to have a sense of humor.... [It] reflects a balance and a perspective on the world that is very healthy."

Response to his book:

"I've had the growing feeling ... that my book has become like Lenin. You can find in it whatever you want to support your position on the political spectrum."

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