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U.S. Seen Pursuing Differing Strategies for Gulf, Europe Missile Shields

Efforts by the United States to establish a Persian Gulf missile shield piece by piece substantially differ from antimissile activities in Europe, where a more comprehensive and cohesive defense network is coming together, the New York Times reported on Wednesday (see GSN, April 17).

The United States has reached a number of deals to provide gulf states with missile interception systems and related technology against a backdrop of regional fears of Iran's growing ballistic missile arsenal and contested nuclear program (see related GSN story, today). Many of these arms deals are being reached quietly, unlike the more formal and well-publicized agreements reached with European nations to host U.S. antimissile systems.

The Defense Department late last year agreed to sell two sophisticated Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense firing units to the United Arab Emirates (see GSN, Jan. 3). Last month it was learned the United States is building a missile warning facility in Qatar that would utilize an AN/TPY-2 X-band radar (see GSN, July 17).

Several weeks ago, the Pentagon informed U.S.lawmakers it had agreed to export to Kuwait 60 Patriot Advanced Capability interceptors, 20 firing platforms and four radar systems. Kuwait previously acquired 350 Patriot interceptors, the Times reported.

Saudi Arabia has its own stockpile of U.S.-purchased Patriot interceptors and last year was approved for a new round of enhancements to the weapons (see GSN, Dec. 2, 2011).

U.S. warships carrying Aegis ballistic missile defense systems are deployed on a rotating basis in the Persian Gulf as an additional measure of protection.

With these deals in place it is left to the Obama administration to persuade individual Persian Gulf countries to provide each other with radar information and to connect their command and control capabilities so that a sectoral shield can be constructed for detecting and responding to feared missile attacks.

"Sometimes to defend one nation effectively you might need a radar system in a neighboring nation," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in remarks before a March meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which encompasses Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

"It’s the cooperation -- it’s what they call ‘interoperability’ -- that we now need to really roll up our sleeves and get to work on," Clinton said at the time.

The delicacy required in promoting such coordination and exchanging of radar information among skeptical Persian Gulf states stands in contrast to the relatively easier time the Obama administration has had in convincing NATO to pursue an integrated missile defense system that would cover Europe.

Under the White House's "phased adaptive approach," increasingly sophisticated U.S. missile interceptors are to be fielded in Poland and Romania and on Aegis-equipped missile destroyers home ported in Spain; an X-band radar already stationed in Turkey is to provide supporting missile threat data, which will be funneled to a command-and-control center in Germany. While the U.S. plan forms the backbone of the alliance's antimissile strategy, individual member states are also expected to augment and link up their own missile defense programs (Thom Shanker, New York Times, Aug. 8).

Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

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