Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Wednesday defended U.S. efforts to build up defense capabilities of Persian Gulf allies in the face of Iran's defiance of international efforts to curb its nuclear program. Clinton met with Bahrain's Foreign Minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa, who said the measures are not intended to provoke Iran.
Clinton is defending the Persian Gulf defense moves in the face of increasingly harsh Iranian comments about a military buildup Tehran calls provocative and a threat to the region.
In recent weeks, the United States been speeding up deliveries of defensive weapons to allies in the region and has deployed Patriot anti-missile systems in four countries there.
U.S. officials have said the effort is in response to concerns among Gulf states about Iran's missile tests and its refusal to accept big-power proposals that would allay doubts about its nuclear intentions.
Iranian parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani this week blamed the United States' military presence for regional tensions and suggested that the new weapons would spawn unrest in the host countries.
Clinton, appearing with her Bahraini counterpart at a press event, said Tehran's actions prompted the defense moves. "Certainly we have to be cognizant of the changing atmosphere in the Gulf and the actions that Iran has taken, and its refusal to abide by the obligations of the [U.N.] Security Council and the International Atomic Energy Agency. So we will work with our allies and our friends. And we will continue to send a strong message to Iran that they have an opportunity to truly act in a way that builds confidence and not raise concerns within the region.," she said.
Foreign Minister Al-Khalifa, whose country provides port facilities for American Navy forces in the Persian Gulf, said the United States has upgraded defensive systems for several Gulf states. But he said the moves have not qualitatively changed the military balance in a way that would threaten Iran. "We expect Iran not to see it as a measure being taken against it. This is a measure to protect. It's not a measure to attack. It's a measure to protect the interests of the whole world. We all know how vital the Gulf region is to the whole world and how vital the waterways out of the Gulf are for everybody," he said.
Bahrain's foreign minister said no one is being belligerent and that if an arms race develops in the region, it will not be the fault of U.S. Gulf allies.