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US building ‘air and maritime defense’ system in Mideast to deter ‘imminent threats’

Brett McGurk, top White House official on region, says ‘something long talked about is now being done, through innovative partnerships and new technologies’

Illustrative: This photo released by the US Air Force shows a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, flying over the Middle East, Sept. 4, 2022. (Staff Sgt. Charles Fultz/U.S. Air Force via AP)
Illustrative: This photo released by the US Air Force shows a B-52H Stratofortress assigned to the 5th Bomb Wing, Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, flying over the Middle East, Sept. 4, 2022. (Staff Sgt. Charles Fultz/U.S. Air Force via AP)

MANAMA, Bahrain — The United States is reinforcing defense infrastructure in the Middle East, at a time of tension with Iran, a US official said Sunday, adding that Tehran had likely abandoned a plan to attack Saudi Arabia due to security cooperation.

Brett McGurk, the National Security Council coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa, told the annual Manama Dialogue conference in Bahrain that his country is focused on deterring “imminent threats” in the strategic energy-rich and conflict-ridden region.

“The United States is now actively building and enabling an integrated air and maritime defense architecture in this region,” said McGurk, the top White House official on the Middle East.

“Something long talked about is now being done, through innovative partnerships and new technologies,” he added without elaborating.

On Saturday, the US Central Command chief General Michael Kurilla announced during the same conference that a US-led task force will deploy more than 100 unmanned vessels in the Gulf region’s strategic waters by next year to stave off maritime threats.

The announcements came after Israel and the United States blamed Iran for a drone strike off the coast of Oman last week that hit a tanker operated by an Israeli-owned firm.

Michael Kurilla, head of the United States Central Command (left), meets with IDF chief Aviv Kohavi at the Nevatim airbase in southern Israel, on November 15, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

The attack, which coincided with heightened tensions between Tehran and Washington, was the latest in a string of disruptions in Gulf waters that are a major route for world energy supplies.

McGurk said the US forces have “exposed and deterred imminent threats” by Iran, confirming earlier reports that the Islamic Republic was planning an attack against its regional rival Saudi Arabia.

“That attack likely did not emerge because of the close security cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the United States, which is ongoing and continuous,” he explained.

Speaking at the same session, the Israeli National Security Adviser Eyal Hulata described Iran as Israel’s “most prominent security threat.”

Israel has lobbied the United States and main European powers to abandon attempts to renew a 2015 deal with Tehran over its nuclear program.

Negotiations over that deal have stalled.

In this photo provided by the US Air Force, evacuees wait under the wing of C-17 Globemaster lll after arriving in an undisclosed location in the Middle East region on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021. (Airman 1st Class Kylie Barrow, US Air Force via AP)

“Enough with futile talks in Vienna,” said Hulata, adding that “even the people of Iran are saying enough” as the regime embarks “on a brutal crackdown against its own people.”

He was referring to the two months of nationwide protests which have become the biggest challenge to Iran’s clerical regime since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution.

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