Sunday, January 31, 2010
US beefs up military presence off Iranian shores
In addition to imposing new sanctions on the Tehran government, the US has reportedly begun beefing up its military presence and war paraphernalia off the Iranian coast.
US military officials told AP on condition of anonymity that Washington has taken silent steps to increase the capability of land-based Patriot missiles on the territory of some of its Arab allies in the Persian Gulf region.
Patriot missile systems were originally deployed to the Persian Gulf region to target aircrafts and shoot down missiles before they reach their target.
According to the officials, who were expounding on the classified information in a Sunday interview, the US Navy is also upgrading the presence of ships capable of intercepting missiles.
The officials claimed that details are kept secret, because a number of Arab states fear Iran's military capabilities, but at the same time, are cautious about acknowledging their cooperation with the US.
Arab states have a long history of housing US military bases and combat equipments. Kuwait plays host to US Patriots, while the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain are home to the US Navy's 5th Fleet headquarters.
Qatar is also known to have a modernized US air operations center that has played a central role in the US wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.
Central Command Chief David Petraeus, who is responsible for US military operations across the Middle East, in early January warned of a series of 'contingency plans' in dealing with Iran's refusal to accept Western demands over its nuclear program.
"It would be almost literally irresponsible if CENTCOM were not to have been thinking about the various 'what ifs' and to make plans for a whole variety of different contingencies," said Petraeus in a break from the Obama administration's oft-stated claims of diplomacy with Tehran.
Petraeus has repeatedly asserted in his recent public speeches that the refurbishment of Patriot missiles is directly linked to US plans about Iran.
"Other countries have certainly increased their Patriots, a whole host of different systems; Aegis ballistic missile cruisers are in the Gulf at all times now," Petraeus added.
Equipped with advanced radar systems, the Aegis ships features a missile known as the SM-3, which came to the fore in February 2008 when it was used to shoot down a defective US satellite in space.
Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has spoken fervently of a new approach to missile systems, both in Europe and the Persian Gulf.
"I don't want to get into it in too much detail," Gates had said earlier in September, "but the reality is we are working both on a bilateral and a multilateral basis in the Gulf to establish the same kind of regional missile defense that would protect our facilities out there as well as our friends and allies."
The buildup comes at a critical time in Tehran-Washington affairs. On Thursday, the US Senate passed a bill advocating tough sanctions on any entity, individual, company or even country, which deals in refined petroleum with Iran.
Washington accuses Iran of developing nuclear weapons and has for years applied sanctions as a prime strategy to force the Tehran government into halting its nuclear activities.
This is while Iran is a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and unlike some of its regional neighbors has opened its enrichment plants to UN inspection.
Under the Bush administration, Washington had strived to portray Iran's uranium enrichment program and missile development as threats to regional stability in what analysts believe to be an attempt to justify the increased US military presence in the Middle East.