News | US Reacts to Hormuz Threats with Military Buildup in Persian Gulf
26 Feb 2012 02:25
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Iran Standard Time (IRST), GMT+3:30
8:55 p.m., 7 Esfand/February 26 According to AFP, Iranian warships that docked in Saudi Arabia this month were part of a "training tour for students" in the Islamic republic's navy.
Quoting a Saudi news agency, the report said officials at Tehran's embassy in Riyadh submitted a request for two ships and a helicopter to dock at Jeddah between February 1 and 7.
"The purpose of such docking is part of a training tour for students of the Iranian Navy, rather than what has been stated by the Iranian Navy Commander Admiral Habibollah Sayari," said the English-language statement.2:25 a.m., 7 Esfand/February 26 The United States is ramping up its military presence in and around the Persian Gulf in response to recent Iranian threats to close traffic through the Strait of Hormuz if its crucial oil industry is jeopardized. The Wall Street Journal reports,
On February 4, Iran's Fars news agency quoted Sayari as saying the supply ship Kharg and Shaid Qandi, a destroyer, had docked in the Red Sea port after orders from Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
"This mission aims to show the power of the Islamic republic of Iran on the open seas and to confront Iranophobia," Sayari said.
The U.S. military has notified Congress of plans to preposition new mine-detection and clearing equipment and expand surveillance capabilities in and around the strait, according to defense officials briefed on the requests, including one submitted earlier this month.
The military also wants to quickly modify weapons systems on ships so they could be used against Iranian fast-attack boats, as well as shore-launched cruise missiles, the defense officials said. [...]
The head of Central Command [which oversees U.S. forces in the Gulf region], Marine Gen. James Mattis, asked for the equipment upgrades after reviews by war planners last spring and fall exposed "gaps" in U.S. defense capabilities and military preparedness should Tehran close the Strait of Hormuz, officials said.
The Central Command reviews, in particular, have fueled concerns about the U.S. military's ability to respond swiftly should Iran mine the strait, through which nearly 20% of the world's traded oil passes.
Pentagon officials reportedly added that in the event of any Iranian attempt to mine the strait, a U.S. special operations term based in the United Arab Emirates would be ordered into action as first responders.
Over the past couple of months, various Iranian officials have indicated that the Islamic Republic would seek to blockade the strait if Western-imposed economic sanctions targeting the Iranian nuclear program begin to threaten the country's ability to export its oil. For a closer look at the issue, see Reza Sanati's analysis and this Q&A with Michael Singh.
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