London, Asharq Al-Awsat- Nabeel Bin Yacoub al-Hamar, the Chairman of the Bahrain Institute for Political Development [BIPD] and media adviser to the King of Bahrain, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “Gulf States have the right to protect their territory…from any potential attacks.” He said that he was surprised by the “exaggerated” Iranian response to the US deployment of missile defense systems in a number of Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] member-states. Al-Hamar said that “the Gulf States have the right to protect their security from any potential attacks from any country or party, no party should criticize the desire of Gulf States to defend their territory which is something that is undertaken by all countries in the world.”
US officials confirmed that anti-missile defense systems had been deployed on the ground and at sea in the Gulf region in order to counter the Iranian threat. The US officials revealed that this includes the deployment of Patriot Missile Defense Systems on the ground in Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and the UAE, in addition to navy ships equipped with missile defense systems being stationed in the Mediterranean region.
Al-Hamar, who is also the former Bahraini Minister of Information, told Asharq Al-Awsat “I do not believe that the deployment of missile defense systems can be considered to be a hostile action, as some parties believe.” He added that the deployment of these missile defense systems “is a purely defense operations…we will not hit them (Iran) but this is protection for our countries, it is a defensive system and not an offensive system, and is it now prohibited for Gulf States to protect themselves? This is the principle which we are basing [this deployment] upon.”
Iranian officials have previously threatened the Gulf States saying that in the event of a war breaking out between the US and Iran, Tehran would target Gulf States, and this is despite the fact that the GCC has continuously stated that is against any military action being launched against Iran. The Gulf States also confirmed that it would not allow any attacks against Iran to be launched from their territory. In August 2009, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, General Mohamed Ali Jafari announced that his forces were stepping up their presence in the Gulf of Aden for defensive reasons and that Iranian missiles are very accurate and can strike against targets anywhere. Tehran also threatened to close down the Gulf of Hormuz in the event of a military confrontation breaking out between Iran and the US.
The Iranian response to this deployment has been very critical, and Tehran has leveled criticisms as the Gulf States, however Nabeel al-Hamar informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “Tehran is always exaggerated with regards to its responses, and what is strange is that they have announced that they are in possession of the most advanced offensive weaponry and that all Gulf States lie within the range [of these missiles], so why do they deny the Gulf States [right] to defend their territory…nobody said that these defensive systems will be used against Iran in particular, so why does Tehran believe that is the subject of this?”
Iran has strongly attacked the deployment of the missile defense systems, and Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told Iranian state television that “we look at these actions as a conspiracy and subterfuge from foreign countries to create feelings of Iranophobia.”
BIPD Chairman, Nabeel al-Hamar also told Asharq Al-Awsat that “it is not reasonable that everybody is gaining possession of the most advanced offensive arms, but when it is the Gulf States turn to protect their territory, this is considered something that is aimed solely at Iran.” Al-Hamar added “they have offensive systems and we have defensive systems, and we cannot accept being left exposed to any party.”
Nabeel al-Hamar, who is also the Editor-in-Chief of Bahrain’s Al Ayam newspaper said that the Gulf States desire a strong neighborly relationship with Tehran, and stressed that Gulf States are not hostile towards “our neighbor Iran.” However at the same time he stressed that the Gulf States attempts to protect their territory and people should not be considered to be an attack on Tehran or anybody else. He told Asharq Al-Awsat “Every country in the world has the right to work for its own interests and protect its security so long as this does not include taking a hostile or aggressive position towards others. This is something that the Gulf States are not doing, not against Iran or others.”
Commander of the US Central Command, General David Petraeus announced that 8 anti-missile batteries are being deployed throughout the Gulf region, with 2 anti-missile batteries being deployed in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE. In addition to this, two US navy ships equipped wit the Aegis anti-missile systems will be stationed in the Mediterranean at all times.
The deployment of these missile defense systems comes at a time when there is tension in the Gulf region as a result of a long-standing dispute between the West and Tehran due to Tehran’s nuclear program. The West is calling for a fourth round of UN sanctions to be issued against Tehran for failing to put an end to its uranium enrichment program.
However the US and Israel have not ruled military action being taken against Iran if this dispute cannot be resolved through diplomatic channels, as the West believe that Tehran’s nuclear program aims to produce nuclear weapons.