Washington briefing: Pentagon wants anti-Iran radar in the Caucasus

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Friday September 25, 2009

An X-band radar being transported in 2005. Raytheon

Washington - A senior U.S. military official said that an American early-warning radar (referred to as X-Band radar) aimed at missiles potentially launched from Iran was "probably more likely to be in the Caucasus," a region that is adjacent to Iran, rather than in European countries that are further away.

Vice-chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. James Cartwright made the comment during a September 17 Pentagon press conference intended to explain the cancellation of U.S. plans for missile and radar deployments in Poland and the Czech Republic.

Chief of Russian General Staff Gen. Nikolay Makarov was quick to respond. He said that Russia would view a U.S. radar in the Caucasus "negatively" unless Russia and the United States were "to build it jointly."

The United States first expressed interest in a Caucasus radar in March 2007, when the director of the U.S. Missile Defense Agency at the time, Gen. Henry Obering, floated the idea of a "mobile anti-missile radar" in the Caucasus to monitor Iran; a U.S. official soon after denied there were any deployment plans.

In June 2007, Russian leader Vladimir Putin suggested the United States could receive information gathered by a Russian early-warning radar base in Azerbaijan and other Russian facilities there instead of unilaterally deploying new radars. The Bush administration took interest in the offer, but U.S. officials argued that data supplied by Russia could not be a substitute for a U.S.-run missile defense system.

The United States has placed X-Band radars around the world, including one in Israel last year, marking the first foreign military deployment in Israel since its independence.

Of the three Caucasus states, only Georgia publicly welcomed the potential U.S. radar deployment, Eurasianet.org reported on September 18.

The same day, Azerbaijani deputy foreign minister Araz Azimov said that U.S. officials did not raise the issue during his Washington visit last week, Azerbaijani media reported.

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