debkafile reports: More than 10,000 US personnel, two aircraft carriers and 100 warplanes begin biggest simulated demonstration of force in Gulf si
debkafile‘s military sources note that the exercise was launched March 27 the day before the Arab League summit opens in Riyadh, to demonstrate the Bush administration’s determination not to let Iran block the Strait of Hormuz to oil exports from the Persian Gulf, or continue its nuclear program.
Taking part are the USS Stennis and USS Eisenhower strike forces.
With Iran’s Revolutionary Guards one week into their marine maneuvers, military tensions in the Gulf region are skyrocketing and boosting world oil prices.
Intelligence sources in Moscow claim to have information that a US strike against Iranian nuclear installations has been scheduled for April 6 at 0040 hours. The Russian sources say the US operation, code-named “Bite,” will last no more than 12 hours and consist of missile and aerial strikes devastating enough to set Tehran’s nuclear program several years back.
The maneuver also occurs four days after 14 British seamen and one crew-woman were seized by an Iranian Revolutionary Guards warship, with no sign that their release is imminent.
London insists its marines were on routine patrol on the Iraqi side of the Shatt al Arb on behalf of the Iraqi government. Tony Blair has threatened “a new phase” in the crisis if the captured personnel are not speedily released.
The warplanes are flying simulated attack maneuvers on enemy shipping with aircraft and ships, hunting enemy submarines and seeking mines, off the coast of Iran.
US Navy Cmdr Kevin Aandahl declined to say when the maneuver was planned or how long it would last. He said US warships would stay out of Iranian territorial waters up to 12 miles from the Iranian coast. Tehran does not recognize this limit and claims a deeper stretch of water.
Our military sources explain the presence of the French naval strike group led by the nuclear aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle which joined the two US carriers last Friday: The group will carry out security missions in the Arabian Sea and its warplanes fly in support of NATO in Afghanistan.