Agencies (Qasioun) – US military officials said that the Pentagon is removing some U.S. missile systems from the Middle East in October.
Analysists see that such a move will leave American allies with fewer defenses as the White House ramps up its rhetoric against what it says are threats posed by Iran.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is pulling four Patriot missile systems out of Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain next month in a realignment of forces and capabilities as the military steps up its focus on threats from China and Russia, multiple senior military officials said.
The relocation of the systems out of the Middle East, which hasn’t been previously disclosed, is one of the most tangible signs of the Pentagon’s new focus on threats from Russia and China and away from the long-running conflicts in the Middle East and Afghanistan.
Two Patriot missile systems will be redeployed from Kuwait, and one each from Jordan and Bahrain, officials said.
The four systems have been taken offline and will be redeployed by next month, officials said. There are no plans for any of them to be replaced, and they are being returned to the U.S. for refurbishing and upgrades, an official said.
Although some Patriot systems will remain in the region, officials said the removal of the four batteries amounts to a major drawdown of the capability Patriots provide in the region.
Their removal comes as the White House intensifies its rhetoric against Iran and amid an increasingly complex battlefield in Syria.
The Kuwaiti government said the removal of the system is “merely an interior routine procedure” that was done in coordination with the Kuwaiti government, KUNA, the state news agency, reported.
American allies in the region have depended on such missile-defense systems for years. The systems play both a real and symbolic role in countering the threat posed by nearby Iran. Bahrain, in particular, has grown concerned about Iran-backed groups and other Shiite militias destabilizing the small island nation.
At the same time, Patriot systems in the Gulf may not serve the purpose they once did, said Anthony Cordesman, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington. That is in part because Iran lacks the kind of missile capability required to level precision attacks.
In addition, if the Patriot deployments to the Gulf region were intended mainly for air defenses, that threat simply doesn’t exist as it once did, he said. Iran now is no match for U.S. allies in the Gulf region, which have superior air forces.
“The truth of the matter is that if Iran lets loose with semi-guided missiles, they’re doing it against air forces that are really well-equipped to strike back,” Mr. Cordesman said.
Source: The Wall Street Journal