Iran replaces Iraq as leading threat to Gulf states
DUBAI — Analysts and officials said military procurement by Gulf states has been fueled by the Iranian threat. Iran's nuclear weapons and intermediate-range missile programs have shaped their requirements over the next year.
"I believe Iran is the No. 1 priority for Arab Gulf states when it comes to their procurement programs," Mohammed Qadry Said, director of the military unit at the Cairo-based Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, told a conference in Dubai on Nov. 19. "This has been the case since the '80s and will continue to be for some time to come."
Analysts and officials said Iran has replaced Iraq as the leading threat to Gulf Arab nations. The threat has been heightened by Iran's close ties to the large Shi'ite communities in such Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states as Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
"The huge size of Iran and its large population, along with the frequent tough rhetoric voiced by its hardline officials and active military buildup, have all been factors that contributed to GCC threat perception vis-à-vis Iran," said [Ret.] Maj. Gen. Mahmoud Irdaisat, director-general of the Amman-based Royal Jordanian Defense College.
GCC procurement has sought to enhance the defense of Gulf Arab air space from Iranian aircraft and missiles. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are determined to have superior air forces to those of Iran.
"The Gulf Cooperation Council is going through one of its most crucial phases and sticking and working together have become vital issues and historic necessities for the member states," GCC Secretary-general Abdul Rahman Al Attiyah told the official Bahrain News Agency. "There is an urgent need to assess all opportunities and to reinvigorate collective action for the sake of our people."
As a result, the GCC's focus has shifted to missile defense. Several GCC states have either procured or examined radars having missile defense capabilities. Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have deployed the PAC-2 air and missile defense system.
UAE Air Force commander Maj. Gen. Khaled Albu Einain said Abu Dhabi has been examining a range of air and missile defense assets that could intercept Iran's Shihab-3 intermediate-range missile. He said the GCC must prepare for the possibility of confronting missiles with multiple warheads because they are harder to intercept.