Tehran reacted quickly to the annoucment of expanded land- and sea-based missile defense systems around the Persian Gulf. They stated that the US is trying to cause increased “Iran phobia” in the Middle East. If their relations with neighboring countries are as “friendly” as Tehran says, why are regional states agreeing to house missile defense systems that offer them increased protection?
TEHRAN (Reuters) – Iran accused the United States on Tuesday of seeking to stoke “Iran phobia” in the Middle East by deploying missile defense systems in the Gulf, and said Tehran enjoyed friendly ties with neighboring states.
U.S. officials said on Sunday that the United States has expanded land- and sea-based missile defense systems in and around the Gulf — a waterway crucial for global oil supplies — to counter what it sees as Iran’s growing missile threat.
“We regard these (U.S.) measures as a conspiracy and a ploy by foreign countries to create a sense of Iran phobia,” Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told state television.
The U.S. deployments include expanded land-based Patriot defensive missile installations in Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain.
Mehmanparast attacked Washington for insinuating that Iran should be feared in the region. “Because they have lost their presence in Iran, they feel they have no foothold and in order to justify their presence (in the region) they make such an insinuation,” he added.
The United States is making the deployments at a time of tension in a long-running international row over Iran’s nuclear program, with Western powers calling for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Tehran for refusing to halt uranium enrichment.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said the West did not want to see friendly relations prevail in the region, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported.
“They have always tried to keep the countries of the region weak and their existence dependent on division and insecurity … Fortunately, there is a good understanding of the enemies’ conspiracies between Tehran and Doha,” Ahmadinejad said at meeting with visiting Qatari Crown Prince Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.
U.S. TEST FAILURE
On Monday, the U.S. Defense Department said a U.S. attempt to shoot down a ballistic missile mimicking an attack from Iran had failed after a malfunction in a radar built by Raytheon Co.
The unsuccessful $150 million test over the Pacific Ocean coincided with a Pentagon report that Iran had expanded its ballistic missile capabilities and posed a “significant” threat to U.S. and allied forces in the Middle East region.
The U.S. missile build-up began under the Bush administration, but has expanded under President Barack Obama. Officials said it was meant to increase protection for U.S. forces and allies in the Gulf.
Neither the United States nor Israel have ruled out military action if diplomacy fails to resolve the row over Iran’s nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at making bombs.
Diplomats say the United States and three European powers hope to blacklist Iran’s central bank and firms linked to the Revolutionary Guard Corps in a new round of U.N. sanctions.
Iran, the world’s fifth-largest oil exporter, says its nuclear work is a peaceful drive for energy generation and has vowed to hit back if attacked. It says its missile program is defensive in nature.
“We have friendly ties with all the countries of the region and we are of the opinion that regional security can be realized through these countries’ … cooperation,” Mehmanparast said.
“The more our country’s capability is augmented toward its own defense and that of the countries of the region the more improved regional security will be,” he said.
(Additional reporting by Reza Derakhshi; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by David Stamp)