Washington (CNN) – In a wide-ranging interview with CNN, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan is much improved. And Gates said, in his opinion, the international community needs to move swiftly to pass a United Nations resolution backing sanctions on Iran.
Using a scale of one to ten, Gates said he rates the relationship with Pakistan at a "six or a seven" now. The Pentagon head also told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King that the relationship was worse – a three on a scale of ten – just two years ago.
The Pakistanis "are very sensitive to the size of the American footprint, the number of Americans on the ground in a training capacity or whatever," Gates said in an interview that aired on CNN's John King, USA. "They're also extremely sensitive about their sovereignty. And we have to respect those things.
"So I think those are things that we're working our way through, but frankly, as I've just indicated, I think the relationship has been improving significantly, and I expect that to continue," Gates said.
On the Obama administration's little acknowledged but widely reported use of remotely-piloted "drone" plane attacks in Pakistani territory, Gates gave few details.
"I would just say we are doing what we need to do," the Defense secretary told King.
On Iran, Gates said the international community should not be fooled by the relative calm that has followed Tehran's efforts to crack down on protests after last year's disputed presidential election results.
"I think the regime has been able to repress the opposition and through the use of brute force, but they haven't solved any of the problems and those people's resentment and anger has not gone away," Gates told King.
The Defense secretary added, "I think a lingering impact of what happened in the election is a significant delegitimization of the Islamic government in Iran with its own people. So things may be calm on the surface, but underneath, I think there are now serious divisions inside Iran that they'll be able to keep the lid on for some period of time, but all experience suggests not indefinitely. I think that the sanctions have had impact, new sanctions will have more impact."
In a rare moment during the interview, Gates offered his personal opinion on international affairs. He said he would prefer international support for a package of sanctions on Iran instead of continually fine tuning sanctions.
"I think that if we can get the resolution, first of all, the principal value of the resolution is that they isolate Iran. And if it didn't matter for Iran, then I don't think they would be working as hard as they are around the world to try and prevent this resolution from being passed. So it has a great political impact.
"But it also provides a legal platform for individual countries then to take much more severe actions with respect to Iran and I'd like to get that legal platform in place and then let the individual countries get on with their own."
Programming note: Watch John King, USA on CNN every weekday beginning at 7 p.m. ET.