Netanyahu warns of impending catastrophe as US officials say short-range ballistic missiles secretly positioned in Iraq Tehran
The crisis in the Gulf, which took Iran and the US to the brink of war in June, was never resolved – and shows every sign of reigniting. Like antagonists in a school-yard fight who refuse to shake hands and make up, the two sides, backed by regional allies and proxies, are sullenly waiting for it all to kick off again. The next bout could be much worse.
In the American camp, alarm bells began ringing in earnest last week. US officials claimed Iran was secretly positioning short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq, within range of Israel and US bases in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.
The Iraq deployments, if true, would be consistent with past Iranian moves to equip Shia militias in Lebanon, Yemen and Syria with improved missile capabilities. Supposed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) missile bases in Syria and Iraq have been targeted by Israeli air strikes in recent months. Iran-backed militia have fired rockets at Israel.
The US has moved 14,000 additional troops to the Gulf region this year. Despite this, it fears a repeat of September’s attack on Saudi oil facilities. John Rood, a senior Pentagon official, warned last week of renewed hostilities: “We continue to see indications … that potential Iranian aggression could occur.”
Israel views the proliferation of precision-guided missiles in the hands of Iranian proxies as a major strategic threat that must be repulsed by all means. Its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is pressing Trump to re-focus on the issue following an ineffectual US response to the oilfield and tanker attacks.
Netanyahu had hoped to lobby Trump and other Nato leaders in person at last week’s London summit, but was prevented from attending due to “logistical concerns”. Instead he met Mike Pompeo, the US secretary of state and fellow hawk, in Portugal, where he stressed that Iran’s activities increasingly threatened Israel and the entire Middle East.
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