Tags: Barack Obama | Iran | Israel | Middle East | War on Terrorism | Iran | Israel

Report: US Quietly Pushing for Advance Missile Defense System in Mideast

By    |   Tuesday, 05 May 2015 11:39 PM

Fears among U.S. allies in the Mideast of a nuclear Iran have led the Obama administration to secretly push Sunni Arabs to create an advanced missile defense system and to move to increase sales of sophisticated weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to news reports.

However, any deal with the Saudis for such weaponry must not violate a 2008 mandate from Congress that ensures Israel's military prowess in the region, The Washington Times reports.

"We have to make sure any transfer of weapons to anyone in the region won't undermine Israel's ability to defend itself," a White House official familiar with the plans told the Times.

Officials said the White House is considering whether to offer the Saudis the chance to buy the GBU-28 bunker-buster bombs — capable of penetrating Iran's underground nuclear operations — that have been only provided to Israel since 2009.

The Saudis have made no official requests for such arsenals, officials told the Times.

Secretary of State John Kerry set out to visit Riyadh on Wednesday and Thursday, according to the Times. The Saudi Embassy declined to comment on the secret negotiations.

"The Saudis are going to go along with whatever deal ultimately gets reached with Iran, but they may have deliverables that they will ask for, and there is speculation about that right now," Jeffrey Lewis, an arms-control expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, told the Times.

A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense System, also known as Aegis, in the Persian Gulf would span from Saudi Arabia to Qatar to the United Arab Emirates, the Times reports.

Any such effort would require a deal with Israel — and President Barack Obama is expected to discuss the plan in private sessions with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council at Camp David this month, according to the report.

Besides Riyadh, Qatar, and the UAE, the other council members include Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.

Obama scheduled the meeting at Camp David last month as he announced the nuclear framework with Iran, which upset both Israel and the Gulf states.

Simon Henderson, a Persian Gulf analyst with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told the Times: "The Saudis and the other 'Gulfies' are coming with the following mindset: 'You're heading toward a deal with Iran, and we're not terribly happy about it because Iran is a very bad actor. Well, we may be less unhappy if you give us better arms to confront what we regard as the Iranian threat.' "

Riyadh has purchased more than $90 billion in weapons from U.S. companies since 2010, the Times reports. They include F-15 fighters, other smaller bombs, armored vehicles, and Patriot missiles.

Regarding the GBU-28, American officials had initially sought to keep any sales to Israel a secret. A classified 2009 State Department cable published by Wikileaks and quoted in the Times report showed both nations agreeing that such transfers "should be handled quietly to avoid any allegation that [Washington was] helping Israel prepare for a strike against Iran."

But the Saudis are warming toward any possible strike on Iran by Israel, the Times reports, particularly because of fears that the nuclear outline — which has a June deadline for a final deal — will not prevent Tehran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

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Fears among U.S. allies in the Mideast of a nuclear Iran have led the Obama administration to secretly push Sunni Arabs to create an advanced missile defense system and to move to increase sales of sophisticated weapons to Saudi Arabia, according to news reports.
Iran, Israel, nuclear, deal, Mideast, allies, US, missile, defense systems, Persian, Gulf Cooperation Council, UAE, Saudis
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2015-39-05
Tuesday, 05 May 2015 11:39 PM
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