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U.S. Patching Together Gulf Defenses against Iran

If ever there were a unifying cause in the Middle East, it would be the scramble between America, Israel, and Sunni states in the Persian Gulf to contain an intransigent Iran. The U.S. wants a balance of power in the region, not Iranian hegemony; Israel can’t afford the security risks of such a hegemony; and the Sunni Gulf states would be the most immediate victims of a more confident and muscular foreign policy from Tehran.

So it comes as no suprise that the U.S. has been working, off camera, to pepper the Persian Gulf with fresh defensive equipment and build up a missile defense shield with its regional allies in the face of confrontation with Iran. The NYT reports:

[I]t will require partner nations in the gulf to put aside rivalries, share information and coordinate their individual arsenals of interceptor missiles to create a defensive shield encompassing all the regional allies.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, among the first to raise the need for the missile shield three years ago, sought to spur the gulf allies on during a recent visit to Saudi Arabia.

“We can do even more to defend the gulf through cooperation on ballistic missile defense,” she said during a session in March of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The threats to the Gulf Arabs are potent enough to warrant this kind of project: Bahrain is ruled by a minority Sunni family, which has a lot to fear from Iran’s meddling with its Shiite underclass. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and the UAE are all bracing themselves for the disastrous effects of Iran closing the Strait of Hormuz.

This defense patchwork is a better approach toward handling the Iranian threat than, say, waiting around for the Saudis to form an opposing Sunni nuclear axis with Pakistan. So far it doesn’t look to be easy: the plans for missile defense in Europe have been settled by public diplomacy without a hitch, but the Persian Gulf is quite a different neighborhood. It will be a major test for the State Department (which has apparently been working on this for a long time already) to cajole each and every Gulf country to agree on cooperative and multilateral security measures. Supplying these kingdoms with Patriot missiles is one step, but if they want the new toys, they’ll have to play nice with each other.

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  • Phineas

    “the plans for missile defense in Europe have been settled by public diplomacy without a hitch,…”

    Aside from that “reset moment” when we slapped Poland and the Czech Republic in the face.

    Still, I’m glad to see some measures being taken in the Gulf.

  • SteveMG

    Well, the question is whether these measures are designed, in part, to complement an attack on Iranian nuclear facilities or are they designed as a response to the acquisition by Iran of nuclear tipped missiles?

    To employ the old Cold War terminology: containment or rollback?

  • Kevin

    I would hardly describe the European issue as settled without a hitch. It left major heartburn with the Central Europeans who felt betrayed.

    My first take was that this initiative is all about how to live with an Iran with nukes and more ir less throwing in the towel on any hopes of preventing it.

  • John Burke

    Um, how is this not a “hitch” in the diplomacy:

    The President of a major NATO ally, one which contributed troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, says his nation was “betrayed” by the US administration. If there were anything resembling a fair press, this would have been a huge story. In any case, Via Media ought to take some note if it.

  • Walter Sobchak

    A wild rumor from a couple of days ago, but, it may make sense of this article FWIW:

    “Source: Iran readies attacks against Saudi Arabia, Qatar” By Reza Kahlili on 08/01/2012

    Iran is preparing for a direct attack on Saudi Arabia should Syria’s Bashar Assad be in danger of falling to rebel forces that the Islamic regime believes are being supported by the Arab kingdom, according to a source within Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Iran also blames the Saudis for unrest in two of its provinces.

    “Dozens of Iranian ballistic missiles have been preprogrammed to hit Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia,” the source said. “Qatar will also be hit at the same time as it is directly involved with the events in Syria.”


    Very Interesting.

  • alex scipio

    Does anyone hate Persian Shiites more than Arab Sunnis?


    Has Saudi Arabia already given Israel overflight rights if they decide to attack Iran?


    Give the Saudis ONE nuke.

    Problems solved.

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