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.