Qatar is set to decide on a fleet of 24 or more fighter jets to replace its fleet of French-made Dassault Mirage 2000 fighters. (Six to eight of Qatar's Mirage's participated in NATO's campaign to oust former Libyan strongman Muammar al-Qaddafi.) The tiny nation is eyeing the Typhoon, Strike Eagle, Boeing's F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, and Dassault's Rafale.
Meanwhile, the UAE, whose Mirage 2000s and Lockheed-made F-16s also flew in Libya, is looking to buy new fighters, possibly financing the development of an entirely new aircraft despite the fact that it bought the most advanced versions of the F-16, known as the F-16E/F Block 60, in 2007. (The UAE actually paid for the development of the Block 60 F-16, making it the first country to fly a better version of an American-made fighter than the United States itself.) The UAE's navy is also financing the development of six brand new stealthy corvettes designed to do everything from mine-laying and coastal patrols to light anti-ship warfare.
Oman has recently purchased 12 new F-16s and will refurbish its older F-16s. It is also buying three British-made corvettes.
This infusion of new radars, planes, ships and missile defenses may be enough to deter Iran's military today, but Mark Gunzinger, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, says the long term is a different matter. Given the fact that Iran has increasing numbers of missiles and rockets that can reach existing facilities, it makes little sense to keep American forces and command centers on the coast of the Persian Gulf.
Gunzinger has called for the U.S. to pull back its headquarters facilities from the shores of the Persian Gulf and establish a network of smaller, more widely distributed bases further back on the Arabian Peninsula that would be harder for the Iranians to target. "We need to maintain a presence in the Gulf but one that doesn't maintain a [command center] at al Udeid and Navy headquarters in Manama."
For the time being, however, the new security architecture seems to mean strengthening the existing foundation of U.S. forces in the Gulf, while beefing up GCC forces through arms sales, training, and encouraging increased military cooperation between the GCC nations. The question now is whether it will work, providing the deterrent to Iran that so many in Washington and elsewhere feel we need.