Hagel, speaking Wednesday to the Gulf Cooperation Council in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, sought to increase U.S. influence in a prosperous, oil-producing region with differing views on Egyptian democracy protests, Iran's nuclear program, and the Syrian conflict.
Some monarchies in the Persian Gulf have split with Qatar's approval of Islamist movements, including the Muslim Brotherhood, to the point of recalling ambassadors from Doha, Qatar's capital, in March.
While all sides, including that of the U.S., agree a common front against security threats is required -- with Iran's nuclear program considered the largest threat -- divisions over policy remain.
An Arab official, speaking anonymously, noted Arab governments objected to the United States' handling of the crisis in Egypt, which included withdrawal of support of President Hosni Mubarak three years ago, followed by limited support of the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian military now controlling the country.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates encouraged the military's removal of the Muslim Brotherhood from power in Egypt, as well as a crackdown on Muslim Brotherhood supporters, despite U.S. opposition to both moves.
In his address, Hagel noted that "under no circumstances" would the U.S. agree to any move weakening Gulf security, and prominently mentioned the 35,000 U.S. troops still stationed in the region.
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