US says it is targeting Middle East missile defense to counter Iran

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The United States says it is working to advance an air defense partnership among Middle Eastern allies to counter the growing missile threat from Iran.

A few days before President Joe Biden’s trip to the region and his meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia and his visit to Israel, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby, speaking Thursday on the Middle East, said: “What happens there definitely affects us here. at home.”

The plan to establish coordination between the air defenses of Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United Arab Emirates and other allies goes back months, as The Wall Street Journal reported in June that a secret meeting took place between the senior military officials of the countries involved in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, in March.

Representatives came from Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Jordan.

In June, Israeli leaders were more forthcoming in mentioning air defense cooperation with Arab countries under the United States, but Kirby spoke more clearly on Thursday than before.

“There is greater collaboration across the region on issues like air defense, and we continue to work on integrated air defense capabilities and frameworks across the region…because the whole region is concerned about the Iran and its burgeoning and growing ballistic missile capabilities…and continued support for terrorism throughout the region,” he said.

Iranian officials appear concerned about the growing close ties between Israel and wealthy Arab oil producers, which would be taboo in the Arab world before 2020, when with the Abraham Accords several Arab countries normalized relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia, although having secret cooperation with Israel, has so far preferred not to openly establish diplomatic relations.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, hardline President Ebrahim Raisi and others have warned Arab countries in the Persian Gulf not to rely on Israel or allow it to establish a military intelligence foothold in the region.

In April, Raisi compared friendship with Israel keep “a snake” nearby. Those Muslim countries that are “normalizing their relations with the bloodthirsty Zionist regime are like those who would keep a snake up their sleeve”, he said.

But without an agreement on its nuclear program after 15 months of diplomacy with the West and its growing atomic potential and its missile program, Tehran has few concrete arguments against a regional alliance which is preparing against its ambitions.

Kirby also told reporters: “There is a growing convergence between nations in the region of concern about [Iran’s] advance the ballistic missile program and their support for terrorist networks”.

Of the Persian Gulf countries involved in military talks, only Qatar has friendly ties with Iran, trying to be a broker to revive nuclear talks stalled since March, but Tehran apparently hopes its potential to supply oil to world markets after Russian sanctions may fetch more concessions from the United States.

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