US, France vie to boost Gulf security after Saudi attack

UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — The United States and France are stepping up radar systems in Saudi Arabia in the wake of drone and cruise missile attacks on the kingdom’s oil infrastructure in September, which Washington blames on Iran.

The US Central Command chief and French defense minister, whose countries have different approaches to Iran, also described competing views on naval missions to protect the Gulf’s waters at a security forum in Bahrain on Saturday.

More than two months after the biggest attack on Saudi oil facilities, Riyadh and Washington have yet to provide any concrete evidence linking Iran to the attack, and Saudi Arabia has provided little detail on how it handles gaps in its air defenses.

Tehran denies involvement in the attacks, which initially cut crude production from the world’s top oil exporter in half and prompted the United States to send thousands of troops and military equipment to the kingdom.

“We continue to scrutinize information about the attack on Saudi Aramco and the Saudis will essentially disclose this,” said General Kenneth Mackenzie, who oversees operations in the Middle East and South Asia.

“We are working with the Saudis to increase the coherence of their systems,” Mackenzie told reporters. This will make them better able to defend against such threats. ”

McKinsey added that the increased US military presence at Prince Sultan Air Base south of Riyadh, as well as the presence of large bases in Qatar and Bahrain, will “further complicate the opponent’s ability to target you.”

French Defense Minister Florence Barley said Paris was separately sending Riyadh a “strong set of early warning” systems, including radar systems to counter attacks with low-flying means.

Later, she told reporters that the devices would be in Saudi Arabia in the coming days so they could be operated very, very quickly. But an analysis is needed to better determine how to close this gap.”

– Calm the tension –

Tension has risen in the region after the September 14 airstrikes that followed attacks on tankers in Gulf waters and other Saudi oil assets in the summer. Washington accuses Iran of carrying out the attacks, but Tehran denies this.

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir said at the Manama Dialogue conference that Riyadh was consulting with its allies on measures to be taken against Iran after the investigation. Jubeir did not say how long this had been.

The conference focused mostly on the Iranian threat, but no representative of Tehran took part. The conference showed differences among Western allies over how to deal with Iran after the United States withdrew from Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal.

France wants to salvage the deal, which Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states allied with the United States object to because it does not include Iran’s ballistic missile program and Iran’s interference in regional affairs.

“We are witnessing a deliberate and gradual US withdrawal,” Barley said, noting there was also no US reaction to a chemical attack in Syria in 2013 and Iran’s downing of a US drone this year.

It was time to “find a deterrent again,” she said, referring to France’s efforts to set up a European-led naval mission away from US pressure on Iran to help “defuse tensions.”

The initiative could be launched early next year and the governments of about a dozen European and non-European countries are expected to participate, depending on parliamentary approval, Barley told reporters.

Only Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom have so far participated in a US-led international maritime security mission, which Mackenzie says will “highlight the shameful activities”.

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