From Simon Tisdall, the Guardian: Barack Obama put a positive spin on this month’s announcement confirming all American troops would leave Iraq by year’s end. But there is no disguising Washington’s anxiety about the future direction of events both there and in neighbouring Syria. Nor is it possible any longer to avoid the conclusion that while the US fought the Iraq war, it was Iran that won it. Hence Pentagon plans, disclosed this week, for big new military deployments in the Gulf region. . . .
Defence department proposals to significantly increase its forces based in Kuwait, and to raise the US navy’s profile in the Gulf, can be viewed in this context of ongoing instability in Iraq. Two bomb attacks in a Shia area of Baghdad that killed or wounded more than 100 people last week were a nasty reminder that sectarian tensions that led the country to the brink of civil war in 2005-7 still simmer. . . .
Iran’s influence in Iraq and Syria, wielded directly and indirectly through powerful proxies such as the hardline Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, may be expected to grow in the wake of the US pullout. This will not only encourage Assad to hang on; it is also likely to increase tensions between Iran and neighbouring, pro-western Gulf Co-operation Council states.
Hence the third pillar of the Pentagon’s evolving strategy, as disclosed by the New York Times: a plan to develop new "security architecture" that would potentially conjoin Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman with the US in a sort of Middle East "mini-Nato". Just as Nato was created to counter the Soviet threat, so this new grouping’s main aim in life would be to push back against Iran.
Specifically, it is suggested the Gulf allies would integrate air and naval patrols and missile defences. Arming all of them with compatible, US-made weapons systems would neatly serve an additional purpose: boosting American arms sales while lessening the impact of coming Pentagon budget cuts. Above all else, such a development would help compensate for the de facto loss of Iraq and reassure Israel, among others, that Iran will not be allowed free rein.
Iran appears to have no doubts the US moves are aimed at Tehran. Speaking during a visit to Baghdad today, the Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi said the plans to expand America’s military presence in other Middle East countries showed a "deficit, unfortunately, in rationality and prudence." (photo: Fujairah in Focus)