debkafile reports: High alert at US and UK bases, Middle East armies on the ready lest Iran’s seizure of 15 British seamen Friday is only first Ira

Our military sources report that Middle East and Persian Gulf nations as well as the US and UK are bracing for further Iranian marine, air or terrorist operations in Iraq and other places in reprisal for the sanctions measure before the UN Security Council in New York. On the ready too are the Saudi armed forces and some Israeli air and naval units.
According to Iranian sources the 15 British Royal navy seamen and marines which an Iranian warship seized with their commando craft Friday, March 23, will be put on trial.
London insists the UK marines routinely inspecting merchant vessels for smuggled goods were on the Iraqi side of the divided Shat al Arb waterway which flows into the Persian Gulf. Tehran accuses them of entering Iranian waters.
debkafile‘s military sources say the incident was but a pretext. According to incoming intelligence, Tehran plans to release a series of reprisals after sanctions are approved in New York Saturday evening, March 24.
The Islamic Republic is also cautioning its Gulf neighbors Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, whose foreign ministers meet visiting US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice in Assuan Saturday morning, not to cooperate with Washington’s regional policies and to stay neutral in the US-Iran dispute.
President Mahmoud Admadinejad’s last-minute cancellation of his appearance before the Security Council is further indication that Tehran gave up on diplomatic maneuvers for pre-empting the sanctions resolution and, assuming their approval was not preventable, turned instead to ramping up military tensions.
Thursday, debkafile reported exclusively a rendezvous Wednesday between the French nuclear carrier Charles de Gaulle and its task force with the USS John C. Stennis in the Arabian Sea Wednesday for joint missions in the global war on terror.
The next day, Iran launched a new naval war game in the Persian Gulf. Just before the British sailors were seized, UK commanders in Basra accused Iran of being behind 90% of the violence in S. Iraq and paying out $250 to anyone willing to attack British troops.
Amid rising tensions in the strategic Gulf waters, debkafile‘s military sources disclose the American-French rendezvous was timed to coincide with the UN Security Council session Wednesday to debate expanded sanctions against Iran for continuing its banned uranium enrichment program.
The Iranians were bowled over by the appearance of the Charles de Gaulle opposite their southern coast, having assumed that Paris took issue with Washington’s tough stand on their nuclear activities and was seeking improved relations with Tehran.
However, Western military circles explain that the French president Jacques Chirac decided before he leaves office in May to repair the bad impression he left in early February when he urged the world – and Israel in particular – to learn to live with “an Iranian nuclear bomb or two.”
Rafale fighter-bombers on the French carrier’s decks will fly missions over Afghanistan alongside US warplanes.
Its arrival raises to four the number of Western aircraft carriers cruising within striking distance of Iran, including the USS Eisenhower and USS Boxer.
The Charles de Gaulle is accompanied by French Task Force 473, which consists of five warships: the FNS Cassard guided missile destroyer, the FNS Tourville anti-submarine frigate, the FNS Dupleix destroyer adapted for escorting oil tankers and the FNS Marne, a command and supply vessel. Captain of the French task force is Rear Adm. Xavier Magne. Commander of the American flotilla is Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn.

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