Within days of disastrous retreat from Afghanistan and pushing the country towards the fate of emerging into hub of global terrorism, Joe Biden now has pulled back missile defense system from Saudi Arabia thus creating uninterrupted opportunities to the mullah regime in Iran and its proxies such as Houthis in intensifying drone and missile attacks on the Kingdom.
According to media reports, the United States has removed its most advanced missile defense system and Patriot batteries from Saudi Arabia in recent weeks, even as the kingdom faced continued air attacks from Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
While tens of thousands of American forces remain across the Arabian Peninsula as a counterweight to Iran, Gulf Arab nations worry about the US’s future plans as its military perceives a growing threat in Asia that requires those missile defenses.
Tensions remain high as negotiations appear stalled in Vienna over Iran’s collapsed nuclear deal with world powers, raising the danger of future confrontations in the region.
“Perceptions matter whether or not they’re rooted in a cold, cold reality. And the perception is very clear that the US is not as committed to the Gulf as it used to be in the views of many people in decision-making authority in the region,” said Kristian Ulrichsen, a research fellow at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.
“From the Saudi point of view, they now see Obama, Trump and Biden – three successive presidents – taking decisions that signify to some extent an abandonment”.
Prince Sultan Air Base, some 115km (70 miles) southeast of Riyadh, has hosted several thousand US troops since a 2019 missile-and-drone attack on the heart of the kingdom’s oil production. That attack, though claimed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels, appears instead to have been carried out by Iran, according to experts and physical debris left behind. Tehran has denied launching the attack, though a drill in January saw Iranian paramilitary forces use similar drones.
Commenting on Tehran’s denial, experts said, Houthis are Iranian proxies and the missiles shot by the Yemen-based jihadist group are being supplied by the Iranian regime. In this case, every missile shot by the Houthis can be termed as missiles from Houthis and Iran.
Just southwest of the airbase’s runway, a one-square-kilometer (about one-third of one-square-mile) area set off by an earthen berm saw American forces station Patriot missile batteries, as well as one advanced Terminal High Altitude Air Defence unit, according to satellite images from Planet Labs Inc. A THAAD can destroy ballistic missiles at a higher altitude than Patriots.
In a statement, the Saudi defence ministry described the kingdom’s relationship with the US as “strong, longstanding and historic” even while acknowledging the withdrawal of the American missile defence systems. It said the Saudi military “is capable of defending its lands, seas and airspace, and protecting its people”.
“The redeployment of some defence capabilities of the friendly United States of America from the region is carried out through common understanding and realignment of defence strategies as an attribute of operational deployment and disposition,” it said.
Saudi Arabia maintains its Patriot missile batteries and typically fires two missiles at an incoming target. That has become an expensive proposition amid the Houthi campaign, as each Patriot missile costs more than $3m. The kingdom also claims to intercept nearly every missile and drone launched at the kingdom, an incredibly high success rate previously questioned by experts.
As Iran and its proxies are increasingly becoming desperate and it is highly anticipated that Iranian regime will now become much hostile and aggressive following its failed nuclear negotiations with the US, the Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia need to take immediately initiatives in fighting Iran both militarily and through cyber and media sectors. Unless the policymakers in those countries realize the importance and urgency of putting special emphasis on cyber and media sector in fighting Iran’s evil agendas, Iran will only continue to further push forward its notoriety.
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