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Why US missile shield in Persian Gulf?



Voice of Russia
August 9, 2012

http://english.ruvr.ru/2012_08_09/US-missile-shield-will-protect-Persian-G
ulf-democracies/

US missile shield will protect Persian Gulf democracies
Boris Volkhonsky

====

[P]ublicity surrounding the US anti-missile plans in Europe has one
particular objective in mind - that is persuading everyone that the
shield is not what it really is, and that it is directed against some
rogue terrorist states like Iran and North Korea. It has been pointed out
numerous times that a shield in Poland, Romania or Czech Republic can
hardly intercept Iranian missiles (less so - North Korean). So the only
real objective the shield can have is purely a demonstration of muscle to
Western and Central Europe's immediate neighbors in the East, mainly
Russia.

[W]hat makes the case of the US cooperation with the Gulf monarchies so
embarrassing for the US is the fact that in this case it cannot resort to
its usual tactics of using the "human rights" issue as a pretext for
"humanitarian intervention". While portraying Iranian regime as
non-democratic in the eyes of Western public (which is naturally resentful
of everything Islamic) produces little difficulty, picturing the Gulf
states as models of democracy is not so easy.

[T]he virus of Arab Spring is rather contagious. The US is in no way
willing to risk anything of the kind happening to its long-time allies,
like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and others. Therefore, one of the side tasks of
enhanced military cooperation with the Gulf monarchies is an attempt to
divert a possibility of a Syrian-type insurgency.

====


As reported by The New York Times on Wednesday, 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.

The paper characterizes this as "an enterprise that is meant to send a
pointed message to Tehran", and it "becomes more urgent as tensions with
Iran rise."

In fact, little is new in the story. The idea of putting up a missile
shield in the Persian Gulf was first raised by the US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton about three years ago. During her recent visit to Saudi
Arabia she tried to further encourage the Gulf allies to work towards a
common defense system.

"Sometimes to defend one nation effectively you might need a radar system
in a neighboring nation," the paper quotes Ms. Clinton as saying.

The practical implementation of the idea has also begun. Defense
cooperation between the US and its allies in the Gulf is expanding, with
the US supplying modern weapons and military technology. Still, there is a
sharp contrast between the US activity in the region and similar actions
in Europe. While Washington's European initiatives, undertaken within the
NATO framework are widely publicized, similar interactions with the Gulf
states go on largely behind the scenes. So, what is the US afraid or
ashamed of?

There are several explanations to it. First, publicity surrounding the US
anti-missile plans in Europe has one particular objective in mind - that
is persuading everyone that the shield is not what it really is, and that
it is directed against some rogue terrorist states like Iran and North
Korea. It has been pointed out numerous times that a shield in Poland,
Romania or Czech Republic can hardly intercept Iranian missiles (less so
- North Korean). So the only real objective the shield can have is
purely a demonstration of muscle to Western and Central Europe's immediate
neighbors in the East, mainly Russia.

On the contrary, the shield in the Persian Gulf is evidently pointed at
Iran. Then why is the US so shy about it?

As the course of events around the so called "Iranian nuclear program" has
shown, Iran's position is mostly defensive. It is the US that uses the
tool of sanctions against Iran and Iran-related companies - not vice
versa. It is the US that increases its military build-up in the region and
stirs up its allies to openly speak of a preventive strike, and then
intervenes with "dovish" rhetoric and poses as a kind of appeaser.

But what makes the case of the US cooperation with the Gulf monarchies so
embarrassing for the US is the fact that in this case it cannot resort to
its usual tactics of using the "human rights" issue as a pretext for
"humanitarian intervention". While portraying Iranian regime as
non-democratic in the eyes of Western public (which is naturally resentful
of everything Islamic) produces little difficulty, picturing the Gulf
states as models of democracy is not so easy.

But the stakes are too high, and when there is one main obstacle on the
way of establishing US dominance in the Great Middle East, "human rights"
and "democracy" can wait.

All this leads to the only plausible explanation of the whole US strategy.
Definitely, it is not the "nuclear problem" as such that bothers
Washington. Its real aim is a) isolating Iran and b) instigating a regime
change along the lines of the "Arab Spring" and later - replacing the
countries that are presently dealing with Iran, including its nuclear
sector.

But the virus of Arab Spring is rather contagious. The US is in no way
willing to risk anything of the kind happening to its long-time allies,
like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and others. Therefore, one of the side tasks of
enhanced military cooperation with the Gulf monarchies is an attempt to
divert a possibility of a Syrian-type insurgency.

That is not to say that the missile shield as such can be used as a tool
against a possible revolution. But having invested so much in the military
infrastructure of the "model democracies of the Gulf", the US will not let
all the "toil and spoil" to be lost too easily. And that means that at the
first hint of an anti-government uprising, the US will be the first to
react - and in a totally different way from how it reacts to processes
in Libya or Syria.

Boris Volkhonsky, senior research fellow, Russian Institute for Strategic
Studies

===================== end 


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