US AND GULF AL­LIES WORK TO OFF­SET IRAN MIS­SILE THREAT

▶ Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo says ex­piry of arms em­bargo would be ‘trag­i­cally dan­ger­ous’

The National - News - - FRONT PAGE - JOYCE KARAM Wash­ing­ton

US Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo said Wash­ing­ton was work­ing with Arab Gulf part­ners to off­set a grow­ing mis­sile threat from Iran.

He also gave a warn­ing that let­ting a UN arms em­bargo against Tehran ex­pire in Oc­to­ber would cre­ate in­sta­bil­ity through­out the Mid­dle East. Mr Pom­peo told The Na­tional on Thurs­day that the US was com­mit­ted to pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity as­sis­tance in the face of Iran’s in­creas­ing mis­sile ca­pa­bil­ity.

This week, Tehran an­nounced it was build­ing un­der­ground “mis­sile cities” along the Gulf coast­line, de­scrib­ing them as “a night­mare for Iran’s en­e­mies”.

“We think it’s so im­por­tant that the world unites to ex­tend the arms em­bargo that ex­pires just a hand­ful of months from now,” Mr Pom­peo said.

Let­ting it ex­pire, he said, would be “trag­i­cally dan­ger­ous for the re­gion and would cre­ate in­sta­bil­ity through­out the Mid­dle East”.

Asked about US ef­forts to boost the de­fences of Gulf coun­tries against the mis­sile threat, Mr Pom­peo men­tioned three routes: ex­tend­ing the em­bargo, weapons sales and other ways that are not pub­lic.

“We have been work­ing with our Gulf state part­ners – not only to get them to as­sist the US ef­forts to ex­tend this arms em­bargo, which is very im­por­tant for them – but also we pro­vided a great deal of as­sis­tance, all kinds of US sales of weapons,” he said. “Those are all pub­lic.”

Mr Pom­peo said there were “things we can do both pub­licly and other­wise to help pro­vide se­cu­rity in the face of an in­creas­ing ca­pa­bil­ity of the Ira­ni­ans to fire mis­siles all through­out the re­gion”.

He de­scribed Iran’s goal as one to “ul­ti­mately es­tab­lish mis­sile ca­pa­bil­ity that is ro­bust enough to de­feat mis­sile-de­fence ca­pa­bil­i­ties through­out the re­gion and strike in places that are be­yond their near neigh­bour­hood”. A UN report re­leased in June found Iran to be the ori­gin of the cruise mis­siles that struck oil plants in Saudi Ara­bia in Septem­ber. Mr Pom­peo men­tioned re­cent satel­lite launches by Iran as an­other as­pect of the mis­sile threat.

“We watched as they con­tin­ued to build their space ve­hi­cle pro­gramme,” he said. “They would of course claim it is for civil­ian pur­poses, to put a com­mer­cial satel­lite up, but the world is smarter than that.”

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