The third US aircraft carrier, USS Stennis, is moving into place off the Iranian Gulf coast to lead a 12-day naval exercise of 25 nations on Sept 16-27, that will include a large-scale minesweeping drill simulating the breaching of the Strait of Hormuz against Iranian efforts to block oil passage through the strategic waterway. President Barack Obama may see Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on the last day of the exercise. He hopes to present him with proof of US readiness for military action against Iran and demonstrate that an Israeli strike is superfluous.
The Stennis will join two other aircraft carriers, the USS Enterprise and USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, and their strike groups, which are already on operational duty off the coast of Iran, ready for the drill which kicks off in the strategic Strait of Hormuz on Sept. 16.
US officials say the Stennis will replace the Enterprise, but according to debkafile’s military and Washington sources all three carriers will remain in place opposite Iran in the Gulf region in the coming months. British and French warships are completing their transfer to new stations off Iran for the big exercise in which the Saudi and United Arab Emirates navies will also take part.
In addition to practicing tactics for keeping the Strait of Hormuz open, the exercise will simulate operations for destroying Iranian naval, air and missile bases in the Persian Gulf area.
This war game has three additional objectives, reported here by debkafile’s military sources:
1. To forestall an Israeli offensive against Iran, President Barack Obama wants to convince its leaders as well as Gulf rulers that the US-Western military option for disrupting Iran’s race to a nuclear bomb is deadly serious and ready to be exercised when the need arises – although determining “when the need arises” is the nub of the US-Israel dispute.
The exercise winds up Sept. 27, the day penciled in by the White House for Netanyahu to arrive for talks with President Obama and enable him to show his visitor that there is no need for Israel to act.
2. The exercise is intended to convey the same message to Iran, that the US military option is real and genuine and will be exercised unless it halts its nuclear weapons program. The awesome might the US-led coalition is capable of wielding against the Islamic Republic in a prospective war will be brought home to Iran’s military strategists, its Revolutionary Guards, Navy, and Air Force commanders, across their television screens, radar and spy satellites.
3. The drill will assemble massive strength on the spot in anticipation of an Israeli decision after all to cut down the Iranian nuclear menace on its own..
The Netanyahu government found further grounds for going it alone in certain key amendments inimical to Israel introduced in the new Democratic Party’s platform on the Middle East. It is due for endorsement by the convention in Charlotte, Ca. Wednesday, ahead of Obama’s confirmation as the party’s presidential nominee. Those amendments are hardly designed to revive Israel's trust in the president's Middle East policies.
The 2008 platform confirmed a “commitment which requires us to ensure that Israel retains a qualitative edge in the Middle East for its national security and its right to self-defense.” The 2012 platform is amended to “[t]he administration has also worked to ensure Israel’s qualitative military edge in the region,” with no commitment to doing so in the future.
The Democratic platform has also dropped the Democrats’ affirmation of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, leaving its status open for a negotiated peace with the Palestinians.
Also removed is the statement that Palestinian “refugees” should be settled in a future Palestinian state, not in Israel.” The Obama White House has given itself a free hand to follow the Palestinian position on the refugee issue too like on Jerusalem (which he pointedly avoided visiting during his presidency.)
The new platform omits language characterizing Hamas as a terrorist group
The Israeli cabinet held a wide-ranging debate Tuesday, Sept. 4, on Iran after hearing briefings from the Military Intelligence, the Mossad, the Shin Bet and the Foreign Ministry’s Research Department on current Middle East crises, topped by Iran. No bulletins were issued from the closed, classified proceedings.
Some of the participants described the information put before them as “worrying though not frightening.” They implied that the IDF’s level of preparations and alert has not been reduced, sharply refuting the misinformation opponents of direct Israeli action against Iran have circulated widely and planted in media headlines.