DEBKAfileSpecial Report July 12, 2012, 10:23 AM (GMT+02:00)
As Russia and NATO continued to boost their military strength in the eastern Mediterranean, debkafile’s military sources report substantial US reinforcements, led by the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier, are being rushed to the Persian Gulf opposite Iran, with dozens of unmanned underwater craft for destroying mines.
The USS John C. Stennis arrives in August, raising the number of American aircraft carriers in waters off Iran to four including the USS Enterprise and the USS Abraham Lincoln, with the French Charles de Gaulle due soon to make up a fifth.
The Eisenhower, which reached its new position in the first week of July, operates under the joint commands of the US Sixth (Mediterranean) and Fifth (Gulf) Fleets.
Thursday, July 12, American military officials announced that the US is also dispatching to the Persian Gulf dozens of tiny, unmanned SeaFox submersibles that can detect and destroy mines if strewn by Iran to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the chokepoint for transporting one-fifth of the world’s oil.
About 4 feet long, they each carry an underwater television camera, homing sonar and an explosive charge.
There are now additionally eight American minesweepers in the Persian Gulf as well as the USS Ponce, a platform for the special forces, helicopters and warships there to fight off Iranian marine units attempting to plant mines in the vital waterway.
debkafile’s military sources say that Washington decided to expand its military deployment in the area after concluding, in consultation with French and British naval experts, that Iran is short of the military strength and sophisticated measure for completely sealing off the Strait of Hormuz to all sea traffic, especially oil tankers.
All the Iranians can do is plant enough underwater mines to impede traffic and slow it down.
The new, bolstered US deployment in the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean is on the ready for immediate action against any Iranian military threat. “If Iran starts spreading underwater mines in international waterways, i.e., the Strait of Hormuz, it will find American forces ready to dismantle them on the spot,” said a Western military source.
In any case, said the source, a slowdown of oil traffic through Hormuz won’t have an immediate impact on the world oil market or prices. “The world has enough reserve oil in storage to supply its needs for six full months,” said the source.
DEBKAfileExclusive Report July 11, 2012, 11:44 AM (GMT+02:00)
NATO, which proclaims non-involvement in the Syrian conflict, and Russia, which vows to block foreign military action against the Assad regime, are both moving large naval forces into the eastern Mediterranean opposite Syrian shores.
A flotilla of at least 11 Russian warships has been detached from Black Sea, North Sea and Baltic fleet bases and is on its way to the Syrian coast for a maneuver; NATO has consigned its rapid response Maritime Group 2 to the same stretch of sea – where also five Israeli warships are deployed. The Western alliance has also increased surveillance flights over the Mediterranean from the Geilenkirchen air base in Germany.
This rush of military movements is explained officially by the big air-and-sea exercise launched by Syria Sunday, July 8, to simulate outside aggression. It follows Iran’s practice of continuous military drills for repelling mock Western or Israel attacks.
The exercise began with a barrage of dozens of surface-to-sea missiles simulating naval and shore defense against approaching enemy craft and landing forces.
At about the same time, Iran embarked on a big air-cum-missile defense exercise in the south to fight off potential aggression from the direction of the Gulf of Oman and the Gulf of Aden, where US air force units are clustered.
debkafile’s military sources report that this is the first simultaneous, coordinated Syrian-Iranian military maneuver for drilling action against an advancing enemy. It is synchronized from a joint headquarters established for the purpose in Damascus.
While these coordinated maneuvers are being presented as designed to fend off foreign intervention in the Syrian conflict, our sources report that they are in fact preparing for a potential US attack on Iran’s nuclear program, which is now expected in Gulf and European military quarters to take place in October, three months hence.
High-ranking Saudi princes associated with their national military and intelligence agencies frankly confided to Arab and Western officials on recent visits to Riyadh that the US and, possibly Israel too, are on the verge of war on Iran. “It is already decided,” they say. The only question still open is the date, which could be before or after the US presidential election on November 6.
In line with this prediction, France is reported in Paris to be massing a large naval force in the United Arab Emirates. The French nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle-R91 is expected to dock soon at the French naval base in Port Zayid on Abu Dhabi’s northeastern coast opposite the strategic Strait of Hormuz. The French are also boosting their air units at Al Dhafra Air Base, stationing them alongside a large American air force presence.