left corner left corner
China Daily Website

US, allies pursue missile shield against Iran

Updated: 2012-08-10 02:01
( Xinhua)

WASHINGTON -- The United States and its Arab allies are knitting together a regional missile defense system across the Persian Gulf to protect cities, oil refineries, pipelines and military bases from an Iranian attack, a newspaper report said Thursday.

The effort is meant to send a pointed message to Tehran, and it has become more urgent as tensions with Iran rise, the New York Times reported, quoting US government officials and public documents.

The idea was first put forward by US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton three years ago, and she sought to spur the Gulf allies while attending a session in March of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The project will include deploying radar to increase the range of early warning coverage across the Gulf, as well as introducing command, control and communications systems that could exchange that information with missile interceptors whose triggers are held by individual countries, the report said.

For this purpose, the Pentagon late last year announced the sale of two advanced missile defense radars to the United Arab Emirates. And early this year, it was disclosed that a similar high-resolution, X-band missile defense radar would be located in Qatar, the report said.

Three weeks ago, the Pentagon informed Congress of a plan to sell Kuwait $4.2 billion worth of weaponry, including 60 Patriot Advanced Capability missiles, 20 launching platforms and four radars. Saudi Arabia also has bought a significant arsenal of Patriot systems, the latest being a $1.7 billion upgrade last year.

US military forces deployed in the Gulf provide a core capability for ballistic missile defenses, in particular the American Navy vessels with advanced tracking radars and interceptor missiles. And the US has deployed a number of land-based missile defense systems to defend specific American military facilities in the region, according to the report.

But unlike the missile defense shield being installed in Europe, the Gulf version is more like assembling a jigsaw puzzle. With the US arms sales to the Gulf nations, it still needs to put together all the pieces to bring toward fruition of the project.

Thus, the next challenge is coaxing Gulf nations to put aside their rivalries and share early warning radar data, and then integrate the capabilities of their unilateral missile interceptor systems to extend defenses over the entire region, the report said.

The challenges to creating an integrated regional missile defense system are both technological and political. On the technical side, the task is made more difficult by the fact that the capability emerging in the Gulf is more ad hoc than the carefully designed architecture for Europe.

Political challenges stem from historic rivalries among the Gulf partner nations, which prompt them to only enhance their security through bilateral relationships with the US While all six members of the GCC share concerns over Iran, they have resisted multilateral security initiatives, the report said.