Department of Defense News Briefing with Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Marine General John Cartwright, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Excerpts)

February 10, 2009

Weapon Program: 

  • Missile

. . .
Q: Mr. Secretary, there are reports that the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has reached out officially to President Obama and asked for a meeting with President Obama. Can you confirm that that has occurred through official channels or that the Iranians have reached out to other senior American officials at this time?

And, General Cartwright, how concerned are you about the satellite launch? How close are the Iranians to having a ballistic missile capability? Is there any potential for a military-to-military relationship with the Iranians in the near future?

SEC. GATES: Any kind of official outreach from Ahmadinejad to the president or to other senior U.S. officials is news to me.

GEN. CARTWRIGHT: The space launch that occurred -- a space program and the technologies associated with a space program are technologies that are compatible with/commensurate with an intercontinental ballistic missile-type capability. So we have to worry about the transfer of that technology or the use of that technology for ballistic-missile-type capabilities that in range could basically range the United States and many of the European allies and the regional partners that we have. So you have to be concerned about that.

That's not an automatic. It doesn't happen in a day or two. And the work that they have done thus far is, at best, rudimentary -- very low orbit, very minimal energy to get up there. This is not a long- range missile, but it is the path toward that, so we have to worry about that.

Q: And military-to-military relationship, any potential in the near future that you see as an icebreaker potentially?

SEC. GATES: With Iran?

Q: Yes.

SEC. GATES: Not at this point.

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