U.S. rethinks Gulf presence based on Iran as regional power

Monday, April 28, 2003

The United States has begun a review of its military presence in the Gulf region, taking into account regional threats and rivalries.

Officials said one factor being weighed by the Bush administration is Iran, which stands to emerge as the most powerful country in the Gulf following the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.

The United States will maintain access to four military bases in Iraq where it currently has 135,000 troops.

Officials said the review is meant to determine troop levels in all six Gulf Cooperation Council states, Middle East Newsline reported. The U.S. review is headed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who began a tour of the Gulf region on Sunday. Rumsfeld's first stop was the United Arab Emirates and the secretary was joined by leading U.S. commanders.

Officials said the Pentagon has decided to reduce its military presence in the Gulf region over the next few months. They said a timetable and other details would be discussed with GCC states.

In Abu Dhabi, Rumsfeld was joined by U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Tommy Franks in meetings with UAE military and political leaders. They included talks with UAE deputy armed forces commander Crown Prince Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Mohammad Bin Zayid Al Nayhan.

We assured them that the United States intends to do what is necessary to make sure there is a secure environment in Iraq," Rumsfeld said. "There's no question but that the people of this region are safer today than they were when the Saddam Hussein regime was in power."

Officials said the UAE provided a range of services for the U.S.-led war in Iraq. They included U.S. deployment at Al Dhafra air force base, used by U-2 surveillance aircraft, KC-10 refueling aircraft and Global Hawk unmanned air vehicles.

Franks, expected to draft a report to Rumsfeld on future military presence in the Gulf, said the issue of U.S. use of GCC ports and air bases would require additional study. He said Central Command does not have any plans to leave the UAE in the short term.

"In the days and months ahead there will likely be a rearrangement of the footprint in the region," Franks said. "The way I would characterize it is we need to study it. We need to see exactly what footprint will have the highest payoff for us in the future."

The U.S. general also said Central Command wants to maintain its deployment at the A-Sayliyah base in Qatar, used as a leading command and control center for the war in Iraq. Such a base could compensate for any U.S. loss of the much larger command and control facility at Saudi Arabia's Prince Sultan air base.

"We do know that we want to use it [A-Sayliyah], now that we have it," Franks said.

Rumsfeld and Franks flew to Qatar on late Sunday. They are expected in Bahrain on Monday and could visit Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Print this Article Print this Article Email this article Email this article Subscribe to this Feature Free Headline Alerts
Search Worldwide Web Search Search WorldTrib Archives

See current edition of

Return to World Front Cover