He also told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee that he is open to new ideas about future policy.
"I am open to a wide range of ideas and proposals," Gates said. "If confirmed, I plan, urgently, to consult with our military leaders and our combat commanders in the field, as well as with others in the executive branch and in Congress. I would then sit down with the president and members of the National Security Council to discuss the situation in Iraq and offer my thoughts and recommendations."
Gates, a former director of the CIA, warned that unless Iraq is stabilized in the next year or two, it could lead to what he called a "regional conflagration."
He said the outcome in Iraq is essential for the success of U.S. policy in the wider Middle East.
Gates also said he believes Iran is trying to acquire nuclear weapons and that its leaders are lying when they say their nuclear program is strictly for peaceful purposes.
He said the United States should attack Iran only as a last resort, and that he would not support military action against Syria.
(compiled from agency reports)