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Pentagon bulks up defenses in the Gulf

Pentagon file photo

AP

The Pentagon is building a missile-defense radar station at a secret site in Qatar and organizing its biggest-ever minesweeping exercises in the Persian Gulf, as preparations accelerate for a possible flare-up with Iran, according to U.S. officials.

The radar site will complete the backbone of a system designed to defend U.S. interests and allies such as Israel and European nations against Iranian rockets, officials said. The minesweeping exercises, in September, will be the first such multilateral drills in the region, and are expected to be announced by U.S. officials Tuesday.

The Pentagon's moves reflect concern that tensions with Iran could intensify as the full weight of sanctions targeting the country's oil exports takes hold this summer. Though U.S. officials described both the radar site and the naval exercises as defensive in nature, the deployments likely will be seen by Iran as provocations.

The latest measures also could help the U.S. reassure Israel and other anxious allies that the Pentagon is taking steps to counter Iran after months of seemingly fruitless negotiations with Tehran over its nuclear program. Top U.S. officials have privately voiced concern that Israel might strike Iran's nuclear sites. Iran denies its nuclear program is aimed at building nuclear weapons.

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