Persian Gulf gets US missile shield

Pentagon has generated massive business for the US arms manufacturers within the ambit of the missile defence programme. Source: Flickr/ Sticky Fingaz

Pentagon has generated massive business for the US arms manufacturers within the ambit of the missile defence programme. Source: Flickr/ Sticky Fingaz

The US insists that the task of the Persian Gulf system is the same as the shield being deployed in Europe – namely, to blunt an Iranian attack. Russia consistently disputed the stated purpose of the US deployment in Europe.

The New York Times has pieced together details of the “regional missile defence system” that the United States is installing in the Persian Gulf region. The system involves deployment of advanced missile defence radars, command, control and communications systems and interceptors in select GCC countries.

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are the US’ main partners. The Persian Gulf deployments have certain unique features. For one thing, the deployments in these GCC countries merely supplement the missile defence capabilities of the US’ own military forces deployed in the Persian Gulf region.

Second, the US negotiates at a bilateral level with each of the GCC states the sales of the components of the missile defence. That is to say, the US retains the full engineering blueprint of the missile defence system.

In the estimation of the New York Times, this is because unlike the European allies, the Gulf Arab allies lack team spirit and resist “multilateral security initiatives.” Equally, what emerges is that the primacy on “bilateralism” suits the US as well. The deals are secretly struck through face-to-face negotiations and, evidently, they are highly lucrative.

Pentagon has generated massive business for the US arms manufacturers within the ambit of the missile defence programme in the GCC region. At least $21.9 billion worth arms deals on this account alone have materialized for the US companies in the most recent years.

However, at the end of the day, this will still remain an “ad-hoc” missile defence architecture in comparison with what is coming up in Europe. But then, regional security in the Persian Gulf is in flux. The GCC regimes could get blown away if the Arab Spring visits in the region. Needless to say, the US would like to keep all options on the table – making sure it can quickly dismantle and scoot with the radars and interceptors in case “regime change” occurs and some maverick Islamists storm into power in any of these GCC states.

This is a wonderful way of doing arms trade in a volatile region that may blow up anytime: sell a product at fancy price, pocket the money quickly and thereupon keep a contingency plan ready to seize the product if a need arises. There must be something wrong with the DNA of the GCC elites if they do not comprehend what is going on.

The US insists that the task of the Persian Gulf system is the same as the shield being deployed in Europe – namely, to blunt an Iranian attack. (Russia consistently disputed the stated purpose of the US deployment in Europe.) The US’ ballistic missile defence deployments in the Persian Gulf also is supposed to send a “pointed message” to Iran (although India and Pakistan also come within their reach.) 

The “unknown unknown” is whether the deployments in the Persian Gulf are going to be integrated at some point with the BMD system that the US is sure to deploy in its upcoming permanent bases in Afghanistan. The probability is high. 

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