The Obama administration took the unusual step Saturday night, Jan. 30, of leaking word to major US media that the United States, Saudi Arabia and Gulf allies – the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Bahrain – have accelerated the deployment of new defenses against possible Iranian missile attacks. They are preparing for Iran, or its surrogate Hizballah, to hit back for a possible US or strikes on Tehran's nuclear facilities.
debkafile's US military sources confirm that Washington plans to treble the 10,000-strong US troop contingent, already present in Saudi Arabia for guarding its oil fields and port facilities against medium or short-range Iranian missile attack, or sabotage by Hizballah marine units trained for their mission by Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Additional US Aegis missile interceptor cruisers with advanced radar and anti-missile systems were also reported to be heading for round-the-clock patrol around Iranian shores, with more Patriot anti-missile missiles to reinforce the eight batteries already deployed in the four emirates.
The Obama administration set these exceptional steps in motion, debkafile reports, in anticipation of nuclear provocations from Tehran while the regime celebrates the 31st anniversary of the Islamic revolution from Feb.1-11.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has promised to announce Iran's attainment of a 20 percent uranium enrichment capability, a short step to weapons grade material.
Some high-ranking Revolutionary Guards officers have also said that Iran will parade a new type of surface missile during the celebrations, without revealing its features, while Iranian space scientists predicted the launch of a new spy satellite of the Toloo series.
All this was taken in Washington as a challenge that could not be left without an appropriate response. Administration officials also feared that Israel might be goaded into going forward with a military operation against Iran's nuclear facilities. The Gulf Arab states were in need of reassurance too.
The White House's decision to deploy additional defenses in the Gulf came only a day after National Security Adviser James Jones warned that Iran was liable to react to pressure by having its proxies Hizballah and Hamas attack Israel. The abruptness of this step pointed to the administration having woken up to the realization that its diplomatic and military position in the region was in grave jeopardy and in dire need of shoring up without delay.