Iran says U.S. F-22s in UAE imperil regional security


The United States’ deployment of cutting-edge F-22 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates “will endanger the region's security,” Iran warned on Tuesday.

“We do not in any way approve the presence of foreign forces in the region. We advise the regional countries against providing a basis for their presence,” foreign ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast told reporters.

His comment reinforced criticism voiced on Monday by Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi, who was quoted by the al-Alam channel as saying: “Such deployments in the region are both harmful and useless. They are mostly done to create a psychological trend and a sense of insecurity in the region.”

U.S. officials speaking on condition of anonymity on Monday said an unspecified number of F-22 Raptors had been sent to the al-Dhafra air base in the United Arab Emirates.

A U.S. Air Force spokeswoman confirmed the presence of the aircraft -- the most advanced fighters in the U.S. arsenal -- in the general region, while a Pentagon spokesman, Captain John Kirby, described it as “a very normal deployment.”

The dispatch of the F-22s, though, comes at a moment of high tension in the Gulf.

The United States is leading its allies in a showdown with Iran over its controversial nuclear program.

While the issue is currently the subject of talks, the next round of which will take place in Baghdad on May 23, Israel and the United States have both warned that military action remains an option should diplomacy fail.

Iran has hit back, saying it could close the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the Gulf to oil tanker traffic if it is threatened.

At the same time, Tehran has criticized UAE neighbor Saudi Arabia over its pledge to pump more oil at a time when Iranian oil exports are being cut by Western sanctions.

And Iran and the UAE have been locked in a simmering row over ownership of three islands in the Gulf that both countries claim. Washington has sided with the UAE in that dispute.

In December, the United States announced a $3.48 billion arms sale to the UAE for missile defense batteries and radars.

Two U.S. aircraft carriers and their escort ships are currently in the Gulf.

Mehmanparast said in his briefing: “Regional countries should resort to collective cooperation to ensure their security. Seeking foreign countries or their equipment not only will not provide security but will endanger the region’s security.”

Vahadi likewise said Gulf countries should cooperate on security, and was quoted as saying: “The presence of foreign forces in the region will only complicate the situation further and lead to insecurity.”