(photo credit: AP)
The Obama administration
has quietly increased the capability of land-based Patriot defensive
missiles in several Gulf Arab nations, and one military official said
the Navy is increasing the presence of ships capable of knocking out
hostile missiles in flight.
The officials discussed aspects of the defensive
strategy Saturday on condition of anonymity because some elements are
The moves, part of a broader adjustment in the US
approach to missile defense, including in Europe and Asia have been
in the works for months. Details have not been publicly announced, in
part because of diplomatic sensitivities in Gulf countries which
worry about Iranian military capabilities but are cautious about
acknowledging US Protection.
The White House will send a review of ballistic
missile strategy to Congress on Monday that frames the larger shifts.
Attention to defense of the Persian Gulf region, a focus on diffuse
networks of sensors and weapons and cooperation with Russia are major
elements of the study, according to documents obtained by The
Russia opposed Bush administration plans for a
land-based missile defense site in Eastern Europe, and President
Barack Obama's decision to walk away
from that plan last year was partly in pursuit of new capabilities
that might hold greater promise and partly in deference to Russia.
One military official said the adjustments in the
Gulf should be seen as prudent defensive measures designed to deter
Iran from taking aggressive action in the region, more than as a
signal that Washington expects Iran to retaliate for any additional
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton consulted
with numerous allies during a visit to London this week. She told
reporters that the evident failure of US offers to engage Iran in
negotiations over its nuclear program means the US will now press for
additional sanctions against the Iranian government.
Gen. David Petraeus, the US Central Command chief who
is responsible for US military operations across the Middle East,
mentioned in several recent public speeches one element of the
defensive strategy in the Gulf: upgrading Patriot missile systems,
which originally were deployed in the region to shoot down aircraft
but now can hit missiles in flight.
In remarks at Georgetown Law School on Jan. 21,
Petraeus said the US now has eight Patriot missile batteries
stationed in the Gulf region — two each in four countries. He did
not name the countries, but Kuwait has long been known to have
Patriots on its territory.
A military official said Saturday that the three
other countries are the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain — which also
hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet headquarters — and Qatar, home to a
modernized US air operations center that has played a key role in the
Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
The United States has begun
beefing up its approach to defending its Persian Gulf allies against
potential Iranian missile strikes, officials say. The defenses are
being stepped up in advance of possible increased sanctions against
In related news, the American political
Web site Politico.com reported Saturday that CIA director Leon
Panetta traveled to Israel last week.
According to the report, Panetta met with
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak
and with Mossad chief Meir Dagan. The three, according to an unnamed
Israeli official quoted by the Web site, discussed Iran as well as
Panetta also traveled to Egypt and met
with intelligence chief Omar Suleiman and other officials during the
same tour. The Jerusalem Post could not verify the report.
Meanwhile, President Shimon Peres met with
new International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano on Saturday,
the first time a senior Israeli official has met the head of the UN
nuclear watchdog organization.
The president expressed hope that under
Amano’s leadership the organization would act in a determined
and serious manner against ’s nuclear arms pursuit.
Peres emphasized that had not respected
the organization and had not abided by its resolutions. He said
nuclear arms in the hands of a “fanatic” leadership like ’s
posed a threat not only to , but to the entire world.
Amano said that a report he planned to
submit soon to IAEA governors would include the issue, and said that
the Islamic republic had not given enough respect to IAEA
resolutions. Amano added that he planned to visit the in the next few