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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton proposed improved strategies with Arab Gulf states on maritime security and missile defense to counter the threat of Iran.
Clinton told a security conference in Saudi Arabia on Saturday that US commitment to the Gulf is “rock-solid and unwavering.” She stressed the US and Gulf governments share concerns about Iran’s nuclear activity and that partnership with the US has “enormous potential” to advance common interests.
Raising security ties from a bilateral to a multilateral level, Clinton is breaking new ground by taking part in the first strategic cooperation forum between Washington and the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
She said the US and Gulf States should take “practical and specific steps to strengthen mutual security, such as helping militaries improve interoperability, cooperate on maritime security and missile defense, and coordinate responses to crises.” US officials have said it is a US “priority” to help the GCC build a “regional missile defense architecture” against what they see as a looming ballistic missile threat from Iran.
Earlier, the Pentagon unveiled plans to deploy elements of its global antiballistic missile defense system in Asia and the Middle East. American plans for the Middle East include the promotion of “interoperability and information-sharing” among members of the Gulf Cooperation Council as they acquire greater missile-defense capabilities. The countries involved are Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.
On Friday, Clinton met with Saudi King Abdullah to discuss regional military strategy, primarily coordination among the Arab Gulf states on how to unite their defensive capacities into a cohesive regional strategy. The United States is already planning to sell defensive missile technology to the UAE, which along with Saudi Arabia ranks among the more militarily advanced. But Washington wants the big and small Gulf governments to reconcile their distrust of each other and develop a united long-term missile defense architecture.
The talks are taking place amid increased international concern over Iran’s uranium enrichment activity and speculation that the US or Israel my be gearing up for military action. The US, Israel and some Arab countries accuse Iran of trying to build nuclear weapons, but the Islamic republic insists its program is solely for peaceful energy and research purposes.
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