Is the UK sticking its oar into the Gulf to ward off the 'Iran threat'?
From Afghanistan to the UAE? Britain's Royal Air Force at Brize Norton
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Just one week after media reports that London has rebuffed US requests to use British bases near the Middle East for a possible attack on Iran, a British paper has revealed that London may deploy part of its air force to the Persian Gulf region.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has not yet made a decision on the subject and discussions with rulers of the United Arab Emirates for stationing of a fleet of Britain’s Eurofighter Typhoon jets in the country are underway, The Independent reported.
The warplanes could be deployed at the Al Dhafra airbase south of the UAE capital, which also hosts American and French troops including French Mirage fighter-bombers.
The revelation comes after British Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond said on Thursday that European nations must be prepared to “take a bigger role in relation to North Africa and the Middle East.”
The paper claimed the deployment could be in preparation for a potential strike on Iran but the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) said in a statement that it is part of “regular” stationing of Typhoons in the UAE.
“The UK regularly deploys Typhoon to UAE as part of our routine exercise programme and to demonstrate our military commitment to UAE,” the MoD said.
“These deployments are not due to our concerns over Iran’s nuclear programme. As we continue to make clear, the Government does not believe military action against Iran is the right course of action at this time, although no option is off the table,” it added.
This comes as Britain, which is pushing through a multi-billion pound austerity program to avoid bankruptcy is not believed to have the financial means to support such a deployment though London may incur the costs of its military adventurism from the UAE as the French do.
The UAE government has accepted to pay the operational costs for the French, which is variously estimated to be somewhere between £16 million and £36 million annually.
The revelations are believed to enrage a public already outraged by Britain’s continuing military presence in Afghanistan both in terms of casualties and financial costs.
Last week, Cameron’s office said they discussed use of British bases with American officials yet they did not confirm refusal of Washington’s request to use British bases in a possible attack on Iran.
Media reports said at the time that government officials have rejected the US request saying it “would be in breach of international law if it facilitated what amounted to a pre-emptive strike on Iran.”
Deployment of British forces in the UAE seriously challenges last week’s reports raising questions about the real direciton of London's policy that seems confused at best.
Will the UK press ahead with plans to deploy warplanes to the Arab side of the Persian Gulf? Does the UK's overtures to intervene in the Gulf region hark back to Cold War era where more of the globe will be involved?