U.S. fighting "psychological war" in Gulf: Iran

TEHRAN Thu Feb 4, 2010 7:57am EST

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during a ceremony to introduce the domestically produced Simorq propulsion system, for rockets to carry satellites into space, during a ceremony in Tehran, February 3, 2010. REUTERS/Ebrahim Noroozi/IIPA.ir

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during a ceremony to introduce the domestically produced Simorq propulsion system, for rockets to carry satellites into space, during a ceremony in Tehran, February 3, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Ebrahim Noroozi/IIPA.ir

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TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran accused the United States on Thursday of launching a "psychological war" in the Gulf region by presenting Tehran as a threat to Gulf Arab states to convince them they needed U.S. protection.

U.S. officials said on Sunday the United States had expanded land-and sea-based missile defense systems in and around the Gulf -- a waterway crucial for global oil supplies -- to counter what it sees as Iran's growing missile threat.

The U.S. deployments include expanded land-based Patriot defensive missile installations in Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.

"They don't want to see good and growing relations between Iran and its neighbors in the Persian Gulf and thus started a psychological war," Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, was quoted as saying on semi-official news agency ILNA. Iran's top military official also played down the threat to the Islamic republic from Patriot missiles.

"It is not new for us ... we were informed when they were installed, including about their exact locations ... Patriot missile could be easily deactivated by using simple tactics."

A foreign ministry official said earlier this week Washington was trying to stoke "Iran phobia" in the Middle East and said Tehran enjoyed friendly ties with neighboring states.

The United States is making the deployments at a time of tension in a long-running international row over Iran's nuclear energy programme, with Western powers calling for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment.

Analysts speculate that the United States or its ally Israel, could stage an attack on nuclear facilities they think could allow Tehran to acquire nuclear weapons. Iran says it is only interested in generating electricity.

Gulf countries, which have extensive cooperation with the US. military, could be targets for reprisals if their territories were perceived as involved in operations.

(Reporting by Reza Derakhshi; writing by Andrew Hammond; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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