UK ‘may send Typhoons to the Gulf’

Defencemanagement.com – Nov 2, 2012

The government is considering stationing Typhoon jets at an airbase in the United Arab Emirates amid rising tensions over Iran’s nuclear programme, it has been reported.

An article in The Independent cites “highly senior” military diplomatic sources who say that Typhoons may be stationed at the Al Dhafra airbase, south of Abu Dhabi.

The base is currently hosting French Mirage jets, as well as the US’ 380th Air Expeditionary Wing.

Prime Minister David Cameron is said to be in talks with the rulers of Dubai and Abu Dhabi over moving the aircraft, and the report said that an announcement is due “in the near future”.

The move is said to be being considered as a “confidence building measure” for allies in the region and one which could see the UK intervene if Iran attempted to block the Strait of Hormuz as a result of ongoing sanctions.

Israel is currently debating potential military strikes against Iran’s uranium enrichment facilities, which are suspected of aiming to produce weapons grade uranium. Iran insists that its nuclear programme is for civilian purposes only, but has enriched uranium to around 20 per cent, well beyond the purity required for civilian reactors.

Israeli defence minister Ehud Barak is said to be “fully aware” of the discussions regarding British jets, and has held meetings with senior British military commanders and ministers in recent weeks.

One senior British officer quoted in the Independent said: “We do not think there is any need for military action at the moment. But we are considering all eventualities and where the UK should position itself. The decision on deployment will be made on mutual interest and growing interdependence between the UK and the UAE in the long-term.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesman told the newspaper: “The UK regularly deploys Typhoon to UAE as part of our routine exercise programme and to demonstrate our military commitment to UAE and the security of the wider region.

“We have a mutual interest with our GCC [Gulf] partners in ensuring peace and stability in the region, and exercises such as this allow us to practice working together.

“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 .”

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