US Air Force Chief of Staff calls for Gulf Arab unity to counter Iran

United States Air Force Chief of Staff David Goldfein on Saturday pressed Gulf Arab states to reconcile differences and unify military capabilities as tensions with Iran simmer.

Washington sees an ongoing dispute that Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and non-Gulf state Egypt have with Qatar as a threat to efforts to contain Iran and has pushed for a united front.

“When a missile or a UAV (drone) is en route from Iran that is not the time to reconcile past grievances. That time is now. Today,” Goldfein told an air chiefs conference in Dubai.

The US blames Iran for a series of attacks in the Gulf over the summer, including the 14 September missile and drone attack on Saudi Arabia that temporarily shutdown half the kingdom’s oil production. Tehran denies involvement.

Washington has unsuccessfully tried to mediate the dispute, in which the four nations have severed political, trade and transport ties with Qatar since mid-2017 over accusations it supports terrorism.

Doha denies the charge and says the embargo aims to impinge on its sovereignty.

The United States is allied to all six Gulf states. Qatar hosts Al-Udeid air base, the largest US military facility in the region, while Bahrain is home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

“No one country has everything it needs to defend itself but together we have exactly what we need for collective defense,” Goldfein said. “We have the power to begin this right now as we face a common adversary who seems committed to malign behavior across the region.”

Emphasizing the principle of collective security, Goldfein said the best chance to defend the UAE could be from Qatar or neighboring Oman.

“Neighbors to the right and to the left who by geometry-alone have a better shot,” he said.

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