Oman has also been approached, although no Patriot missiles have been deployed there yet, US officials told the newspaper, adding that the willingness of other Arab states to accept the US defenses reflects growing unease in the region over Iran's ambitions and capabilities.
"Our first goal is to deter the Iranians," a senior administration official told the newspaper. "A second is to reassure the Arab states, so they don't feel they have to go nuclear themselves. But there is certainly an element of calming the Israelis as well."
The deployments could also forestall any Iranian retaliation in response to the sanctions, as well as discourage staunch US ally Israel from launching a military strike against Tehran's nuclear and military facilities.
Washington is seeking to win over its allies to slap a fourth set of UN sanctions on Iran that would target the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps believed to control the military aspect of Tehran's controversial nuclear program.
Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton upped the pressure on China to recognize the threat from Iran's nuclear program -- which Washington and its Western allies aims to produce nuclear weapons despite Tehran's insistence otherwise -- and join international calls for sanctions.
General David Petraeus, who heads the US Central Command that oversees US military operations stretching from the Gulf to Central Asia, said the sped-up deployment of missile systems included eight Patriot missile batteries, "two in each of four countries."
The unusually public comments about the accelerated deployments, which began under President Barack Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, came during an address at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington on January 22.
"Iran is clearly seen as a very serious threat by those on the other side of the Gulf front, and indeed, it has been a catalyst for the implementation of the architecture that we envision and have now been trying to implement," he said at the time.
The United States was also keeping Aegis guided missile cruisers, equipped with advanced radar and anti-missile systems that can intercept medium-range missiles, on patrol in the Gulf at all times, according to Petraeus.
Though those systems are not designed to intercept Iran's long-range missile, the Times noted that intelligence agencies estimate it will take Tehran years before it can place a nuclear warhead atop the Shahab III.
A senior military official told the newspaper that Petraeus began speaking openly about the deployments about a month ago, as Tehran declined the Obama administration's offer of engagement and Washington faced growing challenges to impose sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
Washington Post Staff Writer
The initiatives, including a U.S.-backed plan to triple the size of a 10,000-man protection force in Saudi Arabia, are part of a broader push that includes unprecedented coordination of air defenses and expanded joint exercises between the U.S. and Arab militaries, the officials said. All appear to be aimed at increasing pressure on Tehran.
The efforts build on commitments by the George W. Bush administration to sell warplanes and anti-missile systems to friendly Arab states to counter Iran's growing conventional arsenal. The United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are leading a region-wide military buildup that has resulted in more than $25 billion in U.S. arms purchases in the past two years alone.
For the Obama administration, the cooperation represents tangible progress against Iran at a time when the White House is struggling to build international support for stronger diplomatic measures, including tough new economic sanctions, a senior official said in an interview.
"We're developing a truly regional defensive capability, with missile systems, air defense and a hardening up of critical infrastructure," said the official, who is involved in strategic planning with Gulf states and who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "All of these have progressed significantly over the past year."
U.S. support for the buildup has been kept low-key to avoid fueling concerns in Israel and elsewhere about an accelerating conventional-arms race in the region. Iran, which has made steady advances in developing medium-range missiles, is seeking to acquire modern air-defense systems from Russia while also expanding its navy with new submarines and ships.
Gulf officials say their defensive improvements would be undertaken regardless of U.S. support, but some said they were encouraged by the supportive signals from the Obama administration, which regional leaders initially feared would be more accommodating of Iran than the Bush White House.
"It's a tough neighborhood, and we have to make sure we are protected," said a senior government official in a U.S.-allied Arab state. The official, who also spoke on the condition that his name and country not be revealed, called Iran the "No. 1 threat in the region."
Major arms buildups The expanded cooperation with the United States includes new agreements with Saudi Arabia to help establish a facilities-protection force under the country's Ministry of Interior to harden defenses for oil facilities, ports and water desalination plants. The new force is expected to grow to 30,000 personnel and will be used to deter attacks by al-Qaeda, as well as possible future strikes by Iran or Iranian-inspired terrorist groups, according to current and former officials familiar with the initiative. Washington is providing access to technology and equipment for the defense upgrade, the officials said.
The UAE, which recently completed a purchase of 80 American-made F-16 fighter jets, last year was invited for the first time to participate in the U.S. Air Force's "Red Flag" exercises at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. The small Gulf country is in the process of negotiating a purchase of Rafale fighter jets.
"We don't measure ourselves by what our neighbors are doing," the official said. "We're interested in sophisticated training and the best and most capable platforms" available.
The country's buildup has impressed U.S. military officials, who say the U.S.-allied Emirates have emerged as a military power in their own right. In a speech in Bahrain last year, U.S. Centcom commander Gen. David A. Petraeus said the UAE air force alone "could take out the entire Iranian air force, I believe."
In interviews in three Middle East countries, political leaders and analysts said they fear that a nuclear-capable Iran will become the dominant regional power, able to intimidate its neighbors without fear of retaliation. Nearly all the Gulf countries have sizable Shiite Muslim populations with ties to Iran, and some analysts warned that Tehran may try to use these to stir up unrest and possibly even topple pro-Western governments.
"Nuclear weapons are probably most useful to Iran as a deterrent against attack by others, but beyond that, it's all about the swagger and mystique rather than the weapons system," said Nabil Fahmy, former Egyptian ambassador to the United States. "I can't see Iran using such weapons, but they could become much more provocative."
Regional nuclear fearsThe concern over Iran has partly eclipsed long-standing concerns about Israel, a military powerhouse with an undeclared nuclear arsenal that includes scores of warheads that can be delivered by aircraft, submarines or long-range ballistic missiles, some regional analysts said.
Iran's apparent progress toward nuclear-weapons capability has also heightened new fears of a regional arms race that will expand to include atomic bombs. Driving the concerns are new initiatives by several oil- and gas-rich Arab states to build nuclear reactors or power plants, ostensibly to augment domestic energy supplies. The UAE, with heavy U.S. support, recently signed deals to build its first nuclear power reactors. Among other countries taking or considering similar steps are Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Kuwait, Jordan and Yemen.
But if Iran were to test a nuclear device, all countries in the region would reconsider their options, government officials and analysts said.
"Every country in the region will open their files and decide again what to do," said a retired Arab general who asked for anonymity so he could speak freely about the subject. "If nuclear weapons appears to be the road to becoming a world power, why shouldn't that be us?"
Warrick, a Washington Post staff writer, reported as part of a fellowship with the International Reporting Project, an independent nonprofit journalism program based in Washington that provides grants to U.S. journalists to report overseas.
It was an extraordinary moment. Rarely has any world leader given a major address on an international stage declaring End Times prophecies from the Bible have come true. But that is exactly what Netanyahu did.
“The most important lesson of the Holocaust is that a murderous evil must be stopped early, when it is still in its infancy and before it can carry out its designs. The enlightened nations of the world must learn this lesson. We, the Jewish nation, who lost a third of our people on Europe’s blood-soaked soil, have learned that the only guarantee for defending our people is a strong State of Israel and the army of Israel. We gave learned to warn the nations of the world of impending danger but at the same time to prepare to defend ourselves. As the head of the Jewish state, I pledge to you today: We will never again permit evil to snuff out the life of our people and the life of our own country….”