Iran, Qaeda will exploit Arab unrest - US
Camp Liberty - US Defence Secretary Robert Gates said in Iraq on Thursday that Iran and extremist groups such as al-Qaeda would try to exploit the unrest sweeping the Arab world.
"Yemen has really eased up the pressure on al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula," Gates said, referring to the militant group's affiliate in Yemen, which is witnessing a popular uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
"It's also a concern that the internal security services of many of these countries have turned to their internal problems rather than broader counterterrorism mission," Gates said during a visit to the Camp Liberty US base west of Baghdad, where he was inspecting US forces.
But he added that Arab leaders, particularly in Egypt, remain "anxious" to prevent radical Islamists from taking advantage of events in the Middle East.
"We have to keep our eye on it very closely because... this is a period where extremists will probably try to take advantage - including Iran," Gates said.
We must "make sure these guys don't make a free ride", he said.
Gates arrived in Baghdad late on Wednesday after a short stop in Saudi Arabia, where he sharply criticised the Islamic republic after talks with King Abdullah.
"We already have evidence that the Iranians are trying to exploit the situation in Bahrain and we also have evidence that they're talking about what they can do to create problems elsewhere," Gates said, referring to Shi'ite-led protests which were crushed by the Sunni monarchy.