The U.S. has retaliated to what it sees as Iran’s growing missile threat by deploying a land and sea-based missile shield to protect American allies in the Gulf, officials said.
Barack Obama is dispatching land-based Patriot defensive missile installations in Kuwait, Qatar, UAE and Bahrain, as well as keeping two U.S. Navy ships with missile defence systems in and around the Mediterranean.
Officials said the move is aimed at deterring an attack by Iran, but it is likely to dramatically increase tensions between the U.S. and Iran after negotiations failed to persuade Tehran to open its nuclear installations to international controls.
A senior administration official told the New York Times: ‘Our first goal is to deter the Iranians. A second is to reassure the Arab states, so they don’t feel they have to go nuclear themselves.
‘But there is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well.’
General David Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command responsible for military operations across the Middle East, said this month that eight Patriot missile batteries had been stationed in four Gulf countries, which he did not identify.
The build-up began under the Bush administration, but has expanded under President Obama, who is pushing for a new round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear enrichment programme.
Officials said the expansion was meant to increase the protection for U.S. forces and key allies in the Gulf.
Washington is also concerned with the threat of action from Israel, which has said it will not let Tehran come close to building a nuclear missile if diplomacy fails.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month the Pentagon must have military options ready to counter Iran should Mr Obama call for them. …