US quietly bolstering missile defense systems in Persian Gulf

U.S. diplomats have been drafting plans to ramp up the number of American missile systems in the Mideast, focusing on locations in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

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On Friday, State Department officials acknowledged the work by the United States and allies in the Persian Gulf on the missile system, which is designed to counter potential long-range missile threats emanating from Iran. 

"The U.S. has a robust security partnership, including missile defense with our allies and partners in the gulf and is committed to their security," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell told reporters in Washington. 

"The U.S. will continue to work with our partners in the Middle East to strengthen missile defense in the Persian Gulf," he added, according to reports by United Press International. 

Earlier in the week, The New York Times claimed Pentagon officials were in the midst of transferring $4.2 billion in advanced missile systems to Kuwait. 

The reported shipment would include including 60 Patriot Advanced Capability missiles, 20 launching platforms and 4 radars, according to DOD documents reviewed by the Times

That proposed shipment would be on top of the country's current arsenal of 350 Patriot missiles, purchased from the Pentagon between 2007 and 2010.

UAE and Saudi Arabia have also purchased a combined $5.7 billion in missile systems and upgrades from the United States over the past two years. 

The rapidly evolving missile threat to America's shores from rogue states such as Iran have prompted the military buildup in the Mideast, though the deals were brokered by the Pentagon on a country-by-country basis. 

That same threat also prompted congressional Republicans to demand a new missile defense shield for the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. 

Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee forced through $100 million for the program in its $634 billion version of the Pentagon's fiscal 2013 budget. 

DOD officials decided not to request funding for the missile shield in the department's fiscal 2013 budget proposal sent to Congress in February. 

Despite being derided by a House Democrat as an "East Coast Star Wars fantasy base," the committee's mark for the missile shield was approved by the full House in May. 

An East Coast missile shield was one of many issued being hashed out as part of the so-called "hedge strategy" being worked inside the Pentagon, Strategic Command chief Gen. Bob Kehler said that same month. 

The strategy, mandated by Congress, will help weigh the department's options on whether to expand the current, limited anti-missile capabilities already in place across the United States, according to Kehler.  

That said, Pentagon officials remain adamant that a missile defense system based on the East Coast was simply unaffordable and unnecessary. 

"Certainly it's something that's in consideration, but ... we don't believe we need that kind of a capability right now," DOD spokesman Capt. John Kirby said in May, in response Kehler's comments on the potential missile defense program. 

"There [is] a broad swath of things that they were looking at. That was just one of them," Kirby added at the time.