"The embrace of Iraq by its fellow Gulf States will help contain the ambitions of Iran," Secretary Gates told a gathering of defence chiefs from Gulf States.
The senior representative from Bahrain was Brigadier General Yousif Ahmed Malallah, pictured right, the director of plans, organisation and information technology for the Bahrain Defence Force.
Secretary Gates accused Iran of helping groups attacking Iraqi government targets as part of a broad campaign to influence the direction of its western neighbour.
"Iran trains and supplies groups trying to destabilise the elected Iraqi government - more often than not through violence and attacks on Iraqi security forces, government installations and officials," he said.
He said the United States was ready to help Gulf States counter possible threats from Iran but he said it was crucial for regional governments to engage with Iraq.
"As I have said before, the Iraqi people want to be your partners," he told the military officers. "Given the challenges in the Gulf, and the reality of Iran, you should wish to be theirs."
The defence secretary acknowledged lingering bitterness among Arab states over the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, but said it was in the interest of regional powers to support the Baghdad government.
"I am aware that, in international affairs, old wounds do not heal easily," Secretary Gates said. "However, if we look closely at Iraq's economic and political potential, it is clearly in the Gulf nations' strategic interest to support the new government and the people of Iraq."
Gulf governments should consider allowing Iraq to join regional organisations, such as the Gulf Co-operation Council, and help Baghdad by sharing intelligence and improving border control efforts, Secretary Gates suggested.
Last week's conference of chiefs of defence included representatives from 11 countries.
Referring to the recent turmoil on the streets of Tehran, Secretary Gates said the dispute over election results in Iran should be settled 'within Iran'.
"Like you, we have watched the aftermath of the Iranian election with interest and concern," Secretary Gates said. "While this is an issue that should be decided within Iran by the Iranian people, we firmly believe that the Iranian people deserve to have their voices heard free from violence and intimidation." Crown Prince in US: Pg15