U.S. expanding missile defenses in Gulf

WASHINGTON Sun Jan 31, 2010 4:50pm EST

A U.S Army officer stands on a launcher for a Patriot missile interceptor during a joint Israeli-U.S. air-defence exercise dubbed 'Juniper Cobra', in Tel Aviv October 27, 2009. REUTERS/Ziv Koren/Pool

A U.S Army officer stands on a launcher for a Patriot missile interceptor during a joint Israeli-U.S. air-defence exercise dubbed 'Juniper Cobra', in Tel Aviv October 27, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Ziv Koren/Pool

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States has expanded land- and sea-based missile defense systems in and around the Gulf to counter what it sees as Iran's growing missile threat, U.S. officials said.

The deployments include expanded land-based Patriot defensive missile installations in Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain, as well as Navy ships with missile defense systems within striking distance in and around the Mediterranean, officials said.

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

The buildup began under the Bush administration, but has expanded under President Barack Obama, who is pushing for a new round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program.

Officials said the expansion was meant to increase protection for U.S. forces and key allies in the Gulf.

The chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, said last month the Pentagon must have military options ready to counter Iran should Obama call for them.

"The chairman has made it clear many times that he remains concerned about the ballistic missile threat posed by Iran, but it would be inappropriate to discuss any mitigation or defense measures we might have in place to deter/defeat that threat," a spokesman for Mullen said.

Obama announced a revised missile defense system last year that included the deployment of Aegis ships equipped with missile interceptors to help defend Europe and U.S. forces against Iranian rockets.

The Pentagon said it envisioned keeping three ships at any given time in and around the Mediterranean and the North Sea to protect areas of interest, with the possibility of sending additional ships to the region as needed.

The Obama administration said the decision to change plans was based mainly on technological developments and a shift in intelligence assessments to meet short- and medium-range missile threats posed by Iran.

Pentagon officials said deploying ships with SM-3 interceptors, made by Raytheon Co., would provide the flexibility to move U.S. missile defense capabilities as may be needed.

Ships with Aegis interceptor systems are capable of blowing up ballistic missiles above the atmosphere. The system can track over 100 targets, military officials said.

(Reporting by Adam Entous; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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Comments (49)
Harlo wrote:
Obama has given Iran 13 months to continue developing nuclear weapons and lastest intelligence predictions are that Iran will have a nuclear weapon by the end of this year. How has Obama’s appeasing and apologizing worked?

Jan 31, 2010 1:41pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Mega wrote:
The Israelis had an interesting spin on this. They said the buildup was a bad idea because it tacitly acknowledged the inevitability of a nuclear-armed Iran.

The reality is that they’re afraid that this display of force reveals the US as the ultimate guarantor of Israeli interests in the misnamed “Middle East.”

Jan 31, 2010 3:01pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Dryden01 wrote:
The Iranians have already avowed that should their nuclear weapons program be attacked by the U.S. and/or Israel that they will attack U.S, Israeli, and Gulf area allies with missiles.

The question of the hour at that point will be whether or not the Russians and the Chinese will come to the aid of Iran as the U.S. systematically destroys Iran’s entire military.

Jan 31, 2010 4:12pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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