US speeding up missile defences in Persian Gulf

Last Updated: Sunday, January 31, 2010 - 22:06

Washington: As it mulled imposing tougher
sanctions on Tehran over its nuclear ambitions, the US is
accelerating the deployment of its military assets against
possible Iranian missile attacks in the Persian Gulf, placing
special ships and antimissile systems in at least four Arab
countries.

President Barack Obama spoke of the shift in his first
State of the Union address on January 27, warning of
"consequences" if Iran continued to defy United Nations
demands to stop manufacturing nuclear fuel.

The countries that accepted the defence systems were
Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait, The New
York Times reported, quoting US military officials as saying.

They said the Kuwaitis had agreed to take the defensive
weapons to supplement older, less capable models it has had
for years. Saudi Arabia and Israel have long had similar
equipment of their own.

The news that the US is deploying Patriot antimissile
defences appears to be part of a coordinated administration
strategy to increase pressure on Iran, the paper said.

The deployments are also partly intended to counter the
impression that Iran is fast becoming the most powerful
military force in the Middle East, to forestall any Iranian
escalation of its confrontation with the West if new sanctions
are imposed, it paper said.

In addition, the administration is trying to show Israel
that there is no immediate need for military strikes against
Iranian nuclear and missile facilities, the paper quoted Obama
administration officials as saying on the condition of
anonymity.

By highlighting the defensive nature of the buildup, the
administration was hoping to avoid a sharp response from
Tehran, it said.

Gen David Petraeus, the US Central Command chief who
is responsible for American military operations across the
Middle East, mentioned in recent public speeches about
upgrading Patriot missile systems in the Gulf, which
originally were deployed in the region to shoot down aircraft
but now can hit missiles in flight.

Petraeus also said the US was now keeping Aegis cruisers
on patrol in the Persian Gulf at all times. Those cruisers are
equipped with advanced radar and antimissile systems designed
to intercept medium-range missiles.

Iran contends that it is not trying to develop nuclear
weapons, and that its programme is for energy production.

The White House declined to comment on the deployments.
But administration officials who spoke on the condition of
anonymity said the moves have several aims.

"Our first goal is to deter the Iranians," said one
senior administration official. "A second is to reassure the
Arab states, so they don`t feel they have to go nuclear
themselves. But there is certainly an element of calming the
Israelis as well."

PTI




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