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U.S. Naval Base in Bahrain to Double its Size

The home of the American Fifth Fleet in the Gulf is set for a major five-year expansion.

Amid regional turmoil, a U.S. naval base in the Gulf is set for major expansion.

Ground has been broken at the American naval base in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet, for a $580 million expansion that is estimated to take five years to complete,  the US Navy said in a press release Wednesday.

“Naval Support Activity Bahrain continues to grow to better support ongoing operations around the region,” said Capt. Enrique Sadsad, commanding officer of Naval Support Activity Bahrain.

“This expansion project will not only enhance our ability to support our tenant commands and their mission, whether that be logistics, aviation, theatre security, or surface operational support,” Sadsad continued.

“[The] U.S. navy and its allies carry out many maneuvers annually with navies from the region. With these exercises, plus the expected conflict, the new base is more ideal,” defense consultant Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Musa Qallab, told The Media Line      

“It seems the U.S. navy needs better infrastructure in order to fully fulfill the requirement it has for its operations, the new naval base, the U.S. navy and its allies for decades,” Qallab said.

“Regarding the reaction of Iran,” he continued. “They will not accept this provocation. Iran sees Gulf security as something for the Gulf countries and not for foreign countries.”  

Dr. Mustafa Alani, senior advisor and director of terrorism studies at the Gulf Research Center in The United Arab Emirates, told The Media Line that the expansions were part of a natural process since the base in more than four decades old. 

“It’s actually not forced by political development or changes in the security environment,” Alani told The Media Line. “It’s forced by the need, because you have to remember this base was established for more than 40 years ago.”      

“There is a natural expansion; there is a need to expand the building and the space,” he said. “So both parties, the U.S. and Bahrain, agreed that they need to expand the base and definitely it’s a reflection that the U.S. came to stay for long in Bahrain and the Bahraini [government] is happy that the U.S. is going to stay,” Alani explained.  

Alani did not foresee the expansion being faced with public resistance similar to that against the American base on the Japanese island of Okinawa.

“The Iranians might protest or criticize the Bahraini position, but I don’t see that they [Iran] are in a position to change reality on the ground,” Alani said.     

The New York Times reported that General David H. Petraeus, the American top commander in the Middle East, has ordered an expansion of clandestine operations to disrupt and gather intelligence on militant terror groups across the region.

The new guidelines were described in a seven-page document, which according to the Times, appears to authorize specific intelligence-gathering operations against Iran.

The United States and Iran are entangled in a debate over the Iranian nuclear program: Washington alleges it is being used to produce the necessary material for nuclear weapons, while Tehran says it is for peaceful power production only.

Meanwhile, the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Harry S. Truman has left its homeport of Norfolk, Virginia for a six-month tour in the Middle East, which would bring the total number of aircraft carriers deployed in the Gulf to two as the U.S.S. Eisenhower is currently stationed in the region.