The six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states and the United States have agreed to build a regional missile defence architecture, Bahrain’s foreign minister has said.
Details of the agreement and the final decision by the GCC member states and the US will be taken in June, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa said in remarks published by the Japanese newspaper Asahi on Friday. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are negotiating with the US over the issue, the minister said. The missile shield will help protect oil wells and ports in the region from possible Iranian attacks.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week promoted the missile shield idea at the first Strategic Cooperation Forum between the GCC and the US held in Saudi Arabia.
In her speech at the opening of the Forum Clinton stressed Washington’s “rock solid and unwavering” commitment to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman, all long-standing US allies and highlighted US concerns about Iran. This was the first time that the US had engaged with the GCC countries as a group rather then bilaterally, and not everybody is pleased with the development.
Some Russian politicians have already started expressing disquiet at the prospect. The Chairman of the State Duma International Affairs Committee Alexei Pushkov said on Friday that “The building of a missile defense shield is a political step, which signals the possibility of a military strike against Iran. He was speaking at a round table conference on Iran at the Lower House of Parliament, the State Duma.
Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi sharply criticized the U.S.-backed missile defense project, saying that it was “against regional security.” “This missile defense shield is a U.S.-Israeli project and anyone who gets involved with this project is, in fact, implementing the U.S. and Israel’s plot,” the Fars news agency quoted Vahidi as saying.
The Gulf states have been feeling increasingly vulnerable as tensions between Iran and western countries over Iran’s nuclear programme increases, and amidst fears that in case of a strike against Iranian nuclear facilities the Gulf states may bear the brunt of an Iranian response.
source: LINKS Analysis with Gulf News and RIA-Novosti
photo: Hilary Clinton with the Foreign Ministers of the six GCC countries in Riyadh on 31 March 2012.