By Claire Ferris-Lay
Obama administration could provide thousands of advanced 'bunker-busting' bombs to UAE
The Obama administration is planning to provide thousands of advanced “bunker-busting” bombs to the UAE in a bid to build a regional coalition to counter Iran, it has been reported.
The proposed package, which is said to include up to 4,900 joint direct attack munitions (JDAMs) as well as other weapons, would vastly expand the capabilities of the Gulf state’s air force to target fixed structures, the Wall Street Journal said.
JDAMs are designed to demolish bunkers and tunnels, areas where Iran is believed to be developing weapons, said the newspaper. The package is expected to be formally presented to Congress within days, it added.
“There is a complete reanalysis of the need of the UAE and what kinds of weapon systems they need the most to achieve their strategic goals in an international coalition,” Dr Theodore Karasik, director of research and consultancy at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East & Gulf Military Analysis, told Arabian Business.
“The GCC states at this time are united against Iranian pursuit of a nuclear weapon [but] they are not untied on the political and economic ties. Oman and Qatar have a different relationship with Iran than does Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and UAE,” he added.
Iran is a significant trade partner for the UAE, with trade volume between Iran and Dubai - which are separated by just 54km across the Strait of Hormuz - estimated at $10bn a year.
But relations between the two countries have waned in the wake of fresh United Nations sanctions, imposed last year, aimed at forcing Iran to curtail its nuclear programme. Dubai’s Iranian Business Council in December predicted trade between the UAE and Iran would decline by as much as 50 percent in 2010 to $6bn.
The International Atomic Energy Agency in a dossier last week claimed Iran had designed a nuclear warhead and had continued to conduct research on an atomic weapons programme as late as 2010. The IAEA declared for the first time that “Iran has carried out activities relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device” and said “some activities may still be ongoing”.
Western countries, including the US and France, called for tougher sanctions in the wake of the report. The UAE has openly expressed concerns of an Iranian nuclear weapon. The Gulf state’s ambassador to the US, Yousef Al Otaiba last week told The Atlantic Magazine he was concerned about the impact it would have on the UAE.
“I think we are at risk of an Iranian nuclear program far more than you are at risk. At 7,000 miles away, and with two oceans bordering you, an Iranian nuclear threat does not threaten the continental United States. It may threaten your assets in the region, it will threaten the peace process, it will threaten balance of power, it will threaten everything else, but it will not threaten you,” he said.