US speeds up defence shield in Gulf against Iran
The United States is speeding up its deployment of a new missile shield against Iran in four Persian Gulf countries, the New York Times reported Saturday.
Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Kuwait have accepted the stationing of American Patriot missiles, the Times reported, quoting unnamed administration and military officials. Oman has declined the offer, dpa reported.
The weapons are similar to equipment that Saudi Arabia and Israel have had.
The move appeared to be part of a concerted increase of international pressure on Tehran to dismantle its nuclear enrichment system believed to be aimed at building a nuclear weapons and missile programme. The Obama administration had set the end of 2009 as a general deadline for compliance by Iran or the placing of new sanctions.
"Our first goal is to deter the Iranians," a senior administration official was quoted as saying. "A second is to reassure the Arab states, so they dont feel they have to go nuclear themselves. But there is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well."
Earlier this month, General David H Petraeus, commander of the US Central Command, said four unnamed countries in the Gulf would be receiving eight US Patriot missiles - "two in each of four countries."
"Iran is clearly seen as a very serious threat by those on the other side of the Gulf front, and indeed, it has been a catalyst for the implementation of the architecture that we envision and have now been trying to implement," Petraeus said at a conference at the Institute for the Study of War.
The UN Security Council and the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, have been grappling for years to prevent Iran from developing its own nuclear capability. But Tehran has pushed on with its programme.
The latest international efforts have been carried out by the five permanent members of the Security Council - the US, Russia, China, France and Britain - and Germany (the P5-plus-1.)
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Friday, meeting in France with senior French officials, urged China to accept new sanctions against Iran. She pointed out how the flow of oil and other raw materials to China could be disrupted by instability in the Gulf.
In London earlier this week, Clinton noted in a broadcast interview that the US was beginning to share its ideas about the next set of sanctions with the P5 plus 1 and confirmed that the proposed measures would be "clearly aimed at the Iranian economy."
"We still are open to the diplomatic track, but we havent seen much to really prove that theyre willing to engage with us," she said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Iran on Monday that it risked increased sanctions if it does not soon cooperate with investigations into a suspected nuclear weapons programme.
"Time is running out," said Merkel. "It would be a tragedy for the people of Iran if it came to (scantions)."