The six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council and the United States have tentatively agreed to build a regional ballistic missile defense system, Bahraini Foreign Minister Khalid bin Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Khalifa said on Thursday (see GSN, April 5).
In an interview with the Asahi Shimbun, the foreign minister said Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United States would hammer out the details of the missile shield in June.
Khalid attributed the decision to establish a sectoral antimissile architecture as a response to Iran.
"The threats have always been coming from Iran. We did not hear any threats from any other areas," he said.
The establishment of the system is "a way of sending the right message" to the Iranian government as it considers possible military action, Khalid said.
The United States and partner countries believe Iran is seeking a nuclear weapons capability; Tehran insists its atomic program is strictly peaceful but has warned of a harsh military response in the event that foreign nations mount pre-emptive strikes on its nuclear facilities (see related GSN story, today).
Khalid said the six GCC states and Washington held talks in late March in Saudi Arabia regarding missile defense cooperation.
The United Arab Emirates already possesses surface-to-air Patriot interceptors purchased from the United States, Abu Dhabi this year concluded a deal to acquire the U.S.-manufactured Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system (see GSN, Jan. 3).
A senior Russian lawmaker on Friday said a Middle Eastern ballistic missile shield could indicate that a military attack on Iran might be in the works, RIA Novosti reported.
"The building of a missile defense shield is a political step, which signals the possibility of a military strike against Iran," Alexei Pushkov. who heads the State Duma's foreign affairs panel, said at a parliamentary meeting on Iran.
He urged Tehran to not brush off the implications of the missile shield and to keep "in mind Iraq's experience."
The regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was toppled in 2003 (RIA Novosti, April 6).