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Pompeo: US working with Gulf states to counter Iran’s growing missile threat (www.thenational.ae)

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Thursday that Washington is working in more than one way with Arab Gulf partners to offset a growing missile threat from Iran and warned that letting the UN arms embargo expire in October would create instability throughout the Middle East.

Mr Pompeo told The National in a phone briefing for foreign journalists that the US is committed to provide security help for the Gulf in the face of Iran’s increasing missile capability. This week, Iran announced it is building underground missile cities along the Gulf coastline, describing them as “a nightmare for Iran’s enemies”.

The US Secretary of State stressed that Iran’s missile program is in violation of UN resolution 2231 and a critical threat that begs an extension of the UN arms embargo set to expire on October 18.

“We think it’s so important that the world unites to extend the arms embargo that expires just a handful of months from now… that would be tragically dangerous for the region and would create instability throughout the Middle East,” Mr Pompeo said.

Asked about US efforts to boost Gulf state defences against the missile threat, Mr Pompeo noted three pathways for Washington: extending the embargo, weapons sales, and other ways that are not public.

“We have been working with our Gulf state partners – not only to get them to assist the US efforts to extend this arms embargo, which is very important for them – but also we provided a great deal of assistance, all kinds of US sales of weapons, those are all public.”

The Secretary of State said there are “things we can do both publicly and otherwise to help provide security in the face of an increasing capability for the Iranians.”

Mr Pompeo described Iran’s goal as one to “ultimately establish missile capability that is robust enough to defeat missile defence capabilities throughout the region and strike in places that are beyond their near neighbourhood.” A UN report released in June found Iran to be the origin of the cruise missiles that attacked oil facilities in Saudi Arabia last September.

Mr Pompeo mentioned the satellite launches by Iran as another aspect of the missile threat. “We watched as they continued to build their space vehicle program, they would of course claim it is for civilian purposes to put a commercial satellite up, but the world is smarter than that and realizes the program is deeply connected to their desire to have a longer and longer missile range system.”

The US concerns come as the UN Security Council struggles to renew the current five-year arms embargo on Iran. Russia and China have made it clear publicly that they oppose an extension that would continue to prohibit weapons sales to Iran. Gulf States, on the other hand, are highlighting the ballistic missile threat they face from Tehran.

Nicholas Heras, the Middle East Security program manager at the Study of War Institute, argued that the ballistic missile program is a linchpin to Iran’s national security strategy. “The Iranian national security strategy depends on the use of a wide range of ballistic missiles, delivered from Iran’s territory or by Iran’s regional proxies” Mr Heras told The National.

“Iran is at a significant technological disadvantage in military hardware, such as fighter planes, compared to its regional rivals and therefore Iran uses ballistic missiles that can strike its opponents anywhere on their territory as both deterrence and as a threat that Iran can go on the offensive.”

As far as US regional assistance is concerned, Mr Heras described intelligence capabilities and advanced weapons as key components. “The US plays an important role by providing advanced weapons and intelligence gathering capabilities to detect Iran’s military advances, and by deploying US forces to the Gulf to send the message to Iran that an Iranian attack on Gulf allies would be like an attack on the US.”

If the UN arms embargo is not extended in October, Mr Heras said the US would most likely work with European countries to coordinate a sanctions regime against Iran.

Updated: July 9, 2020 08:29 PM

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