From the start, the US effort to persuade Persian Gulf rulers to join a US-led united command for defense against Iranian missile attack ran into trouble.
US defense secretary Robert Gates, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Adm. Michael Mullen and the Central Command chief Adm. William Fallon, addressed a hostile audience at the Manama Dialogue security meeting in Bahrain last Saturday, Dec. 8.
As sweeteners, the Bush administration braved strong congressional opposition for the sake of a $10.8 billion arms package for six Middle East countries. It would include missile defense systems to Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and upgrades for UAE radar planes.
But the sale of satellite-guided bomb kits to Saudi Arabia was postponed by President George W. Bush – first in July, when it was opposed by 250 congressmen and again now. The lawmakers are concerned that the precision bombs might be used against US troops in the Middle East or Israel.
Having failed to come up with sophisticated hardware for Riyadh, the US officials at Manama could hardly turn to the Saudi delegation for help to persuade the rest of the Gulf to seriously consider Washington’s proposals. Because they have other fish to fry with Tehran, the Saudis were anyway disinclined to lead any anti-Iranian initiative.
The other reason behind the Gulf rulers’ reluctance to jump aboard the Pentagon plan is, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Gulf and military sources, a strong suspicion that Washington is sneaking Israel into the joint missile defense command by the back door. This they refuse to hear of, even if it is done on the quiet.
Anti-missile missiles are scrap metal without early warning systems
On the other hand, American military planners are convinced that it is not much use selling the UAE Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 missiles and Kuwait PAC-3 missiles and PAC-2 missile upgrades for autonomous operation, unless they are backed by early warning systems and a further array of anti-missile missile batteries which have diverse ranges and varied capabilities.
They stress that the control and operation systems of the anti-missile missiles in Abu Dhabi and Kuwait must be attached to America’s regional anti-missile network. The catch for the Gulf emirs lies in its location in Israel.
This interdependence is explained in an article run by DEBKA-Net-Weekly 294 (Israel’s Arrow Slots into US Missile Shield in Europe) on March 23, 2007.
The US has designated the Israeli-made Arrow anti-missile missile system and its Green Pine radar the first line in its defensive shield against Iranian ballistic missiles. Any incoming missile would have to first outmaneuver the Israeli system located in the Negev before reaching the Europe-based links – 10 interceptors, which Washington plans for Poland and a radar station projected for the Czech Republic – and possibly Georgia too.
The American and Israeli anti-missile deployments are to be integrated to create an inter-operational multilayered air defense system by 2013.
To make this happen, Washington will sink another $1 billion in the Israeli technology on top of the $2.8 billion already invested.
2. The US-Israeli missile defense network is designed not only to intercept Iranian ballistic missiles of 1,300-1,500 km range fired at Europe, but also the short-range Iskander-E short-range ballistic missiles, which Russia has sold to Syria and is ready to hand out to any other Middle East nation.
Saudis and Gulf stand fast against indirect military links with Israel
Saudi military planners, now in the middle of advanced negotiations with Moscow on big arms transactions, are perfectly aware of this inter-operational system as are the other Arab recipients of American anti-missile missiles.
They also knew that from the Bahrain security conference, Adm. Mullen was to fly straight to Tel Aviv on Dec, 10, for a visit as the guest of Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak and chief of staff Lt. Gen Gaby Ashkenazi. They did not credit the official claim that the admiral would be listening to his hosts’ complaints about the Bush administration’s turnaround on Iran and Syria; it was understood that the US and Israeli military chiefs would be talking about the integration and inter-communication of the Gulf-based communications networks and operations centers controlling the US missile and air defense shield against Iranian ballistic missiles, with the comparable Israel defense array.
This multilayered system is strongly opposed by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf emirates on four grounds:
1. They will not tolerate any linkage between US missile defense systems on their soil with the Israeli military network.
2. They suspect that the anti-missile missiles supplied them by the United States will eventually be connected to the Israeli systems.
3. They infer that the Americans will be using the entire scheme to maneuver them into establishing relations with Israel.
4. They are concerned that Washington is jockeying for control of all the channels of communication with Tehran, on the one hand, while also taking charge of the regional anti-Iranian front. The Gulf rulers reject this dual policy as untenable and contrary to their interests.