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US pulls primary anti-missile defence system from Gulf

US soldiers firing anti aircraft missiles [file photo]
US soldiers firing a missile with a man-portable air defence system (MANPADS) [file photo]

The United States is removing a primary anti-missile air defence system from three Middle Eastern countries as part of a move to distance itself and “rebalance” away from the region, according to an American official.

Speaking to the French news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) yesterday, the anonymous official said that the US is shifting its focus away from the Middle East in particular in order to counter more urgent issues such as its “great power competition” with Russia and China.

The MIM-104 Patriot is a surface-to-air missile system that is created and used by the US military and some of its allies around the world, designed to intercept tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and other airborne threats.

A total of four Patriot missile systems are being pulled from Kuwait, Jordan and Bahrain, all countries that have long been allies of the US and partially depended on its military assistance.

Kuwait’s army chief of staff has stated, however, that the move of the Patriot system was in coordination with the Kuwaiti military and that it is simply an “interior routine procedure”.

Read: Saudi Arabia fears US sanctions for buying Russian missile defence system

The redeployment of these anti-missile systems signals a shift from the “threat” Iran poses. “This is part of a rebalance away from the Middle East,” the official said, “and that decision was made long before the current back and forth with Iran.”

This reconsideration of US foreign policy and the subsequent removal of such prominent military hardware could potentially worry those in the region, particularly the Gulf states, who see Iran as the primary regional threat.

Throughout recent years, US presence and influence within the Middle East and its conflicts has been steadily decreasing in the face of Russia’s greater role in the region, and this is especially the case in the Syrian conflict and Russia’s overwhelming military support for the Assad regime. Countries in the region have also been purchasing major Russian air defence systems, such as Turkey’s and Saudi Arabia’s purchase of the S-400 missile defence system.

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