US rushing missile defense in Persian Gulf

NY Times:

The Obama administration is accelerating the deployment of a series of new defenses against possible Iranian missile attacks in the Persian Gulf, placing special ships off the Iranian coast and antimissile systems in at least four Arab countries, according to administration and military officials.

The deployments come at a critical turning point in President Obama’s dealings with Iran’s leadership, when he is warning that his diplomatic outreach will now be combined with the “consequences,” as he put it in the State of the Union address, of the country’s continued defiance on its nuclear program. The administration is trying to win broad international consensus for sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which Western nations say controls the military side of the nuclear program.

As part of that effort, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton publicly warned China on Friday that its opposition to sanctions was shortsighted. The Senate, meanwhile, last week unanimously approved a resolution authorizing sanctions that include cutting off gasoline to Iran, a step Mr. Obama’s aides say he is reluctant to take.

The deployments are partly intended to address American concerns about possible retaliation for whatever sanctions are imposed. The administration is also trying to demonstrate to Israel that there is no immediate need for military strikes against Iranian nuclear and missile facilities.

The news that the United States is deploying antimissile defenses — which included a rare public discussion by Gen. David H. Petraeus — appear to be part of a coordinated administration strategy to increase pressure on Iran. By highlighting the defensive nature of the buildup rather than offensive weaponry, the administration was trying to contain any Iranian threat without provoking a sharp response from Tehran.

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It is hard to see how this demonstrates to Israel that there is no immediate need for military strikes. Israel already has a robust missile defense capability. What it really does is make these countries less vulnerable to Iran retaliation if Israel does strike. As for Iran, I think they will shrug their shoulders and keep on doing what they have been doing. At this point nothing short of regime change is likely to stop the Iranian nuke program. Obama has missed his opportunity to support those within Iran who are seeking change. He has really handled the Iran threat poorly.

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