Monday, February 01, 2010
Iran's Defiance Spurs Rise In U.S. Military Defenses
By PETER SPIEGEL Wall Street Journal WASHINGTON—The U.S. and its allies in the Persian Gulf have stepped up their military defenses in recent months in response to Iranian missile tests and Tehran's continued defiance of international efforts to curtail its nuclear program, according to U.S. officials. The moves, which have included upgrades, new purchases of American-made Patriot antimissile batteries and the addition of advanced air- and missile-defense radars, illustrate both growing concern with the Iranian moves and a new willingness by Arab allies in the region to more publicly tie their defenses to the U.S. "President [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad has been the best recruiting officer for U.S. Central Command in the Gulf region," said a senior U.S. military official. View Full Image Associated Press A U.S. Navy boat patrols the harbor in Manama, Bahrain. Although some of the buildup has been going on for years—the Bush administration repeatedly sent envoys to the region in a bid to persuade Gulf allies like Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar to link their air and missile defenses in response to Iranian saber-rattling—the heightened profile of the moves comes as the Obama administration has toughened its rhetoric against Tehran. After months of attempting to engage Iran in nuclear diplomacy, the administration has been working in recent weeks to win an international consensus for a new round of sanctions against Iran. Another U.S. official said the willingness of Gulf allies to work more closely with the U.S. on their defenses is a sign of shifting attitudes toward Iran. "Clearly the opportunity cost of working with the U.S. in the region has come down," said the official. Some of the new initiatives were described publicly by Gen. David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, in a January address to the Institute for the Study of War in Washington. In the address, Gen. Petraeus said countries in the region were improving their shared early-warning air- and missile-defense systems by signing bilateral deals with the U.S. to share radar data, which can then be pulled together into a more sophisticated regional system. Gen. Petraeus also said that Gulf allies have increased purchases of weapons, including advanced fighter planes and that four countries have acquired new Patriot batteries. In addition, he said, the U.S. has deployed two Navy cruisers armed with sophisticated Aegis radar and ballistic-missile defenses to the Gulf to provide further defenses. Beyond Iran's missile tests and nuclear program, he said, the U.S. and its Gulf allies also have grown increasingly concerned about Iran's army of proxy extremists in Iraq, Gaza and elsewhere in the region. In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Friday, retired Gen. James Jones, the White House national-security adviser, said the U.S. believes increased pressure on Iran from both international sanctions and domestic unrest could lead it to use proxies to stoke violence. "History shows that when regimes are feeling pressure, as Iran is internally and will externally in the near future, it often lashes out through its surrogates," he said.