UK military to increase presence in Gulf
London, March 3, 2012
Britain plans to beef up its military presence in the Gulf region as an international stand-off continues with Tehran over its nuclear programme, according to a UK newspaper.
The move follows a decision by the European Union (EU) and the US to impose sanctions on Iran's oil, a move that comes into effect in July.
The Sun quoted a senior Whitehall official as saying that a conflict was "inevitable" and said the UK was ready to dispatch troops to the region to bolster its allies here.
"Ministry of Defence planners went into overdrive at the start of the year," they are quoted as saying. "Conflict is seen as inevitable as long as the (Iranian) regime pursue their nuclear ambitions.
"Britain would be sucked in whether we like it or not, probably via Iranian attacks on our forces in Afghanistan next door to them. We also have some very important allies in the region and we stand ready to help them with troops."
The newspaper claimed the UK had at least one nuclear submarine standing by and estimated there could be conflict within 18 to 24 months, prompting an increased British military presence in the GCC.
"The UK will first fly an infantry battalion to the UAE," said the report.
"The move would be a public show of support, demonstrating that Britain is ready to defend the UAE if it comes under attack from Iran.
"The UAE is separated from Iran by just 34 miles of sea across the Strait of Hormuz.
"Further troops could follow if other allies Oman, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar ask for help."
It added the UK had already beefed up its naval forces in the region and had seven warships in the Gulf.
"HMS Daring, one of its newest and most powerful destroyers, arrived in the region last month (January) to join Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll," it said.
"Minesweepers Pembroke, Quora, Middleton and Ramsey are based in Bahrain and a nuclear submarine is lurking in the area."
Another submarine armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles would be commissioned to the area, as well as extra aircraft, it added.
"The RAF would send Typhoon and Tornado Jets to reinforce helicopter and transport plane crews already stationed in Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and the UAE," it said.
The report said Israeli airstrikes on Iran's nuclear facilities were considered the most likely event to trigger conflict.
Plans for Iran and protection of the Strait of Hormuz have been in the pipeline for a while, Former First Sea Lord and Security Minister Lord Alan West was also quoted as saying.
"A plan for Iran and the protection of the Strait of Hormuz has been around for quite a long time," he added.
"It's quite right they should be dusting it off and looking at every aspect of what should be done."
A spokesman at the British Embassy in Bahrain said that contingency plans have been drawn up for all scenarios around the world.
"The Foreign Secretary, the Defence Secretary and the Chief of the Defence Staff have all previously said that all options should be kept on the table," they told the Gulf Daily News, our sister newspaper.
"The MOD (Ministry of Defence) conducts contingency planning for numerous possible scenarios around the world - for all kinds of issues.
"The UK continues to work with other countries to achieve a diplomatic solution over Iran. As has been previously said, we want a negotiated solution, not a military one." - TradeArabia News Service