US and the Persian Gulf Missile Defense Shield

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Interview with Esmail Bashari, Expert in Defense Affairs, Center for Strategic Research
By: Farzad Ramezani Bonesh

A few weeks ago, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Saudi counterpart, Saud al-Faisal announced that expert studies have started for the deployment of a missile defense shield in the Persian Gulf region. The plan, which is now a serious focus of attention for member states of the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council [(P)GCC] will have various consequences for the whole region. In the following interview with Esmail Bashari, an expert on defense affairs at the Center for Strategic Research, we have discussed fundamental importance of the shield, the reason for its prominence under present circumstances, and its different consequences.

International Peace Studies Center (IPSC): Why, in your opinion, the US officials are paying more attention to deployment of a missile defense shield in member countries of (P)GCC?

A: The reason should be sought in the past. Obama Administration, in fact, started designing such systems in 2010, and in parallel, they thought about the best strategy for providing (P)GCC member states with advanced missile and anti-missile systems, such as the Patriot. The United Arab Emirates was supposed to be the second entity, after the US Army, to take advantage of anti-missile THAAD [Terminal High Altitude Area Defense] system. The news was quite surprising because THAAD is suitable for targeting ballistic missiles in the middle stage of their launch, not in the final stage. Although UAE changed its mind later, discussions about deploying such system in UAE have come to the surface in the past few months again. This missile system is also accompanied by an X band radar system which can intercept missiles deep inside the Iranian territory and can hit them outside the Earth’s atmosphere.

IPSC: The Americans have announced that no regional country can defend itself on its own and, therefore, a common missile defense shield should be deployed. What is the main goal behind deployment of the US missile shield in the region?

A: The Americans have sold missile defense systems to Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia [almost all members of (P)GCC] many years ago. They have also established a special system called Aegis on their ships and warships which includes radars and intercepting missiles and is mobile as well. Strengthening (P)GCC members by giving them missile defense systems is more aimed at completing the US anti-missile shield, rather than defending those countries and its ultimate goal is to protect Israel at the cost of Arab states. The goal is to connect defense systems of (P)GCC member countries in the Persian Gulf and then align them with the missile defense shield which is to be deployed in Turkey or that of Israel. Alternatively, they may want to combine the US X band anti-missile radar with Israel’s Arrow and Jericho missiles. The ultimate goal is to create a powerful missile defense shield which would cover the entire Europe, the West, Israel, and (P)GCC member states.

IPSC: Does the West aim to promote Iranophobia to new levels by taking such measures?

A: I think the West and the United States are trying to bank on Iranophobia that they have already promoted in the region in order to sell their defense systems and weapons to regional states. Unlike Turkey, which is not paying anything for the deployment of NATO missile shield, or Israel where the United States has established X band radars at its own cost, or even Poland, the Czech and Romania, which are even paid for the site they have given to the United States to deploy its missiles, member states of the (P)GCC are not paid anything for the deployment, but have also to pay the bill too. That is, the United States has nurtured Iranophobia in those countries in order to pursue its own large-scale interests.

IPSC: The US Assistant Secretary for Global Strategic Affairs Madelyn R. Creedon recently announced that Washington is considering holding trilateral talks on deployment of a joint missile shield with Japan, Australia, and South Korea. She added that anti-missile systems in East Asia and the Middle East will be fashioned on the basis of the same model which has been used for the European system. Now, do you think that strategic and large-scale goals pursued by the United States through deployment of a missile shield in the Persian Gulf have anything to do with Russia and China?

A: In fact, the main goal behind deployment of a missile shield on the Pacific Rim is to counter North Korea’s missile activities followed by China. However, deployment of a missile shield in the Persian Gulf region has nothing to do with either China or Russia, but it is actually meant to defend the Arabian Peninsula against any possible missile threat posed by Iran. At the same time, the ultimate goal is to create a deterrent shield to fend off Iran's possible attack against Israel.

IPSC: The US officials have announced that they aim to create a missile defense shield in order to help six members of (P)GCC against Iran. What do you think is the US basic strategy for deploying regional defense shields?

A: Such systems aim to bring member states of (P)GCC closer together while making them distance from Iran as far as possible. I mean, they try to work out new security arrangements in the Persian Gulf in view of regional issues which are based on Iranophobia and Shia-phobia so as to get regional states closer together. In addition, they want to incur heavy defense costs on these countries and introduce Iran as their main enemy instead of Israel.

IPSC: What are major consequences of deploying the missile defense shield in member states of the (P)GCC?

A: In military terms, any defensive measure can have an offensive aspect to it. That is, when you erect a barricade, you can use it to target the enemy as well. Therefore, when you build a powerful missile shield, you also weaken the rival country with regard to possible attacks that it can launch against you. In other words, although the missile shield is supposed to be a defense system, it can be used for offense as well. Therefore, although what (P)GCC members are doing is apparently deployment of a missile shield, it also enables them to take offensive positions after making sure about the strength of their defenses.

IPSC: How do you think that the future prospects for deployment of a missile defense shield in the Persian Gulf can be analyzed?

A: In fact, the missile system has been already installed and deployment of THAAD system is also nearly finished. The most important point is to connect missile systems in different countries in order to bring them under a central command. Otherwise, individual systems have been deployed in Qatar, UAE and…, but have not been connected yet. After these systems get connected, the project will become operational and using the system will not be difficult. In addition, US warships stationed in the region are equipped with Aegis anti-missile system.

IPSC: What impact this plan may have on security relations between the (Persian) Gulf Cooperation Council and the United States?

A: In fact, it further strengthens security and military ties between the US and such regional countries as Saudi Arabia, and UAE. Moreover, most of these countries have currently missile defense systems in place, but the missile shield will connect all of them to a central command. I think the United States will take over the central command of the missile system. As a result, the Persian Gulf missile system will practically become part of the general missile shield which is to protect the West and the United States. Information from all these systems will be relayed to the central command which, in turn, will decide about how to use intercepting missiles.

Key Words: Persian Gulf, Missile Defense Shield, US, (P)GCC, Iran, Iranophobia, Security, Bashari 

Source: International Peace Studies Centre (IPSC)
Translated By: Iran Review

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