November 2, 2012 - 19:41 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Britain is considering stationing warplanes in the Persian Gulf as the confrontation with Iran over its nuclear program continues amid rising tension in the region, The Independent reports.
The possible deployment of the Eurofighter Typhoons follows talks with the United Arab Emirates to bolster the UK’s presence in the region at a time when Israel is threatening military strikes against Tehran and much of the Middle-East is in turbulence in the aftershock of the Arab Spring and Syria’s civil war.
The decision on whether to send the planes at such a volatile time will be made by David Cameron, after further talks with the rulers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, and an announcement is expected to be made in the near future.
The arrival of British aircraft is bound to fuel the Iranian sense of insecurity even if there are assurances that the move is not aimed at them. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said European nations must be prepared to “take a bigger role in relation to North Africa and the Middle East”.
Israel, whose Defense Minister Ehud Barak is in London at the moment with the Iran crisis the main topic of discussion, is said to be “fully aware” and supportive of the discussions over the warplanes.
The British Government has urged Israel to exercise restraint over Iran, pointing out that sanctions are having a crippling effect on the Iranian economy – with the fall-out from the punitive measures making the government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad increasingly unpopular and creating frictions in the ruling hierarchy.
However, at the same time, UK military commanders are looking at the possibility of sending British jets to a base in Abu Dhabi which is currently being used by American and French forces as a confidence building measure but also, crucially, in case there are attempts by the Iranians to block the Strait of Hormuz, the waterway through which 40 per cent of the world’s oil supplies are shipped.
The Ministry of Defense said in a statement: “The UK regularly deploys Typhoon to UAE as part of our routine exercise program and to demonstrate our military commitment to UAE and the security of the wider region. We have a mutual interest with our GCC [Gulf] partners in ensuring peace and stability in the region, and exercises such as this allow us to practice working together.” The MoD added: “These deployments are not due to our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program. As we continue to make clear, the Government does not believe military action against Iran is the right course of action at this time, although no option is off the table.”
However, The Independent has learnt from highly senior military and diplomatic sources that the Al Dhafra airbase, 20 miles south of Abu Dhabi, is being looked at as a possible station for the Typhoons. The base is in use by French Mirage fighter-bombers as well as the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing of the US Air Force with jets and Patriot missile batteries and well located for operations in the Gulf.
Tehran has been bitterly critical about the American and French presence in the Gulf saying that it was an attempt to intimidate and that it posed a threat to their national interests.