Iran General NewsUS raises tensions with Iran by selling anti-missile systems

US raises tensions with Iran by selling anti-missile systems

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ImageThe Times: Tensions in the Gulf between the US and Iran are set to rise further after it emerged that American-made anti-missile systems are to be deployed to Washington’s Arab allies in the region.

The Times

Tim Reid in Washington

ImageTensions in the Gulf between the US and Iran are set to rise further after it emerged that American-made anti-missile systems are to be deployed to Washington’s Arab allies in the region.

The Obama Administration said yesterday that it was speeding up arms sales to a number of states and that it had also deployed warships in the Gulf as defences against possible Iranian missile attacks.

The moves, which include the sales of anti-missile systems to Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait, are being made to deter Iran from launching attacks against its Sunni Muslim neighbours and to send a message to Israel that a pre-emptive strike against Iran is unnecessary.

The deployments come as President Obama enters a new phase in efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear programme after the failure of a diplomatic offensive. Washington is anxious to get a tough new round of UN sanctions against Tehran, something that China and Russia have shown little interest in backing.

The new arms sales build on deals struck by George W. Bush when he was in office to develop a deterrent among the region’s Sunni nations, including Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, against the predominantly Shia Iran.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia have bought more than $25 billion (£15.5 billion) of US arms in the past two years.

Abu Dhabi has bought $17 billion of US hardware since 2008, including Patriot anti-missile systems, while the UAE as a whole recently bought 80 F16 jets.

The Pentagon is to sell eight Patriot missile batteries, which are capable of shooting down short-range missiles, to the region — two each to Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait. Patriot batteries countered Iraqi Scud missile strikes on Israel in the 1991 Gulf War and were fired from Kuwait in the 2003 conflict with Iraq.

The US is also keeping Aegis cruisers, which can shoot down medium-range missiles, on patrol in the Gulf.

The threat from Iran is the pre-eminent concern among Arab nations and Israel. By selling conventional American weapons, Washington also hopes to stop a nuclear arms race in the region.

In addition the US is to help Saudi Arabia expand from 10,000 to 30,000 a specialist military force which will be used to hunt down al-Qaeda operatives and respond to potential attacks by Iranian-backed groups including Hezbollah.

General David Petraeus, who as head of US Central Command is responsible for military operations across the Middle East, said this month that the US had stationed eight Patriot missile batteries in four Gulf countries, which he did not identify.

The chairman of the US military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, also said last month that the Pentagon must have military options ready to counter Iran should Mr Obama call for them.

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