(CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates arrived in Baghdad Wednesday night to meet with U.S. forces and Iraqi government leaders.
On Thursday, Gates will head to northern Iraq where he will meet with U.S. troops as well as Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish regional government, said a senior defense official who agreed to talk on background.
His message to Iraq's leadership on Thursday will be "that it is important for them to complete the government-formation process, particularly to get the security ministries dealt with," a senior defense official said.
Prior to touching down in Baghdad around 9:32 p.m. (2:23 p.m. ET), Gates was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, for talks with that country's leader, King Abdullah. Like most top-level U.S. visits to regional hotspots, Gates' visit to Iraq was unannounced, most likely for security reasons.
Speaking to reporters after his meeting with the Saudi monarch, Gates said they discussed "developments all over the region" and "obviously they talked about Iran."
He described the talks as an "extremely cordial, warm meeting."
He chided Iran for meddling in the Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, where recent protests led the government to call in troops from member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council.
"We already have evidence that the Iranians are trying to exploit the situation in Bahrain," Gates told reporters Wednesday. "We also have evidence that they are thinking about what they could do to try to create problems elsewhere, as well."