Gulf states break ranks with Bush on Iran attack

As the US carries out massive military exercise in the Persian Gulf, the United Arab Emirates became the second Gulf state to declare it would not take part in any attack on Iran. Qatar—home to 6,500 US troops and the enormous al-Udeid Air Base, headquarters of the Pentagon’s Central Command—said earlier it would not permit an attack on Iran from its soil. The Gulf Cooperation Council, consisting of Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the Emirates, has called on all its members not to support any US action against Iran.

The United States has close to 40,000 troops in the Persian Gulf, including 25,000 in Kuwait, 3,000 in Bahrain, 1,300 in the United Arab Emirates and a few hundred in Oman and Saudi Arabia, according to figures from the Dubai-based Gulf Research Center.

On March 28, the US Navy wrapped up its largest show of force in the Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, with 15 ships, 125 aircraft and 13,000 sailors in an exercise a few dozen miles off Iran’s coast. The maneuvers were meant to show “the commitment of the US to stability and security in the region,” said Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, commander of Strike Group Three, which includes the USS John C. Stennis.

“We’re not looking for any kind of confrontation with Iran,” said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown. “The purpose of the exercise is to ensure that no one miscalculates about our commitment to security and stability in the Persian Gulf.”

But regional US allies made clear they don’t want to be caught in the middle if the situation escalates. “We have assured the brothers in Iran … that we are not a party in its dispute with the United States,” said Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyana of the UAE in a statement carried on the Emirates news agency WAM. “We will not allow any force to use our territories for military, security and espionage activities against Iran.” The UAE “refuses to use its territorial lands, air or waters for aggression against any other country,” Khalifa said.

That could prevent the US Air Force from flying intelligence missions over Iran with its squadron of U-2 and Global Hawk spy planes based at al-Dhafra Air Base near the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi. (AP, March 29)

Crude oil traded near a six-month high $66.31 a barrel, up 28 cents, in after-hours electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange March 29, rising 3% overnight following Iran’s announcement that it won’t release the sole female sailor among the 15 British sailors and marines being held since March 23.

The United Nations Security Council expressed its “grave concern” at Iran’s continued detention of the Britons and urged the Islamic Republic to give diplomats access to them. (Bloomberg, March 30)

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