Hillary Clinton's key talking point for Persian Gulf trip: Iran
Iran and its muscle flexing across the Persian Gulf will be at the heart of Hillary Clinton’s visit to Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
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In announcing Secretary Clinton’s trip, the State Department said only that she would speak Feb. 14 at the US-Islamic World Forum, hosted by the Qatari government and the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center. Also, she will meet with Qatar’s emir and foreign minister. And in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 15-16, she will meet with King Abdullah bin Abdul al-Saud and Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal.
But Iran and its muscle flexing across the Gulf region will be at the heart of the visit, Middle East experts say – as will US attempts to increase pressure on the Iranian regime over its continuing pursuit of nuclear capabilities.
“Iran will very much be front and center in Secretary Clinton’s visit,” says James Phillips, a specialist in Middle Eastern affairs at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “That’s especially true because the Gulf countries, including those she’s visiting, are even more nervous than the US about the rise of Iran and its growing power.”
Clinton’s trip comes as the United States steps up its efforts to pressure Iran to curtail its nuclear ambitions and to contain Iran’s expanding military power in the region.
The US is pursuing a new United Nations Security Council resolution of economic sanctions against Iran, with Defense Secretary Robert Gates saying earlier this week that the US hopes to see approval of the resolution “within weeks.” At the same time, the Obama administration is accelerating a reinforcement of missile defenses in the Persian Gulf, which was initiated under President Bush.
Last month Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the US Central Command, spoke publicly of the deployment of American antimissile batteries, “two in each of four countries.” Although General Petraeus did not provide names, Qatar is known to be one of the countries to have accepted the missiles. Petraeus did say that the US is keeping Aegis cruisers, equipped with antimissile systems capable of intercepting medium-range missiles, on permanent patrol in the Persian Gulf.