US-Led Military Thrust Focuses Heavily on Broad Naval Deployment
Hundreds of US and allied war ships foregathered in the strategic seas of the Middle East and India in the last days of October 2006 for two primary missions: To prepare for a US-led military strike against Iran which has stepped up its uranium enrichment program with a second centrifuge project – undeterred by the prospect of UN sanctions; and measures to fend off palpable al Qaeda threats to oil targets.
debkafile‘s military sources provide details of the massive deployments:
1. A large-scale US-Indian sea exercise called Malabar 06 is in progress off the Indian coast of Goa, ending Nov. 5. The American vessels taking part are the USS Boxer carrier, the USS Bunker Hill guided missile battle cruiser, the guided missile destroyer USS Howard and the USS Benfold, as well as the Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine Providence and the Canadian guided missile frigate HMCS Ottawa.
Indian maritime might is displayed with its warships like INS Beas, INS Mysore, INS Shakti, INS Ganga, tanking ship INS Gharial, submarine INS Shankush and Coast Guard ship CGS Samar
Malabar also involves the landing of large number of soldiers ashore, ahead of the Indian acquisition of the massive amphibious USS Trenton transport dock which can carry six helicopters and about a 1000 soldiers.
Our Tehran sources report that last Thursday, Oct. 26, Iranian officials were seriously rattled by a rumor that an Iranian spy plane had located the USS Boxer heading for the Persian Gulf. It prompted fears of an imminent American military assault to lift Republican prospects in the coming US midterm elections of Nov. 7. In any case, the Iranians suspect that at the end of the joint US-Indian exercise in the Arabian Sea, Boxer will veer west and head into the Persian Gulf. There would then be four US air carriers with task forces parked opposite Iranian shores, including theUSS Enterprise Strike Group, the USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group and the USS Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, which are already in place.
According to the intelligence reaching Iran, the Boxer and its escorts carry 850 Marines who have just spent months in special training for operations on offshore oil rigs and platforms.
2. American, Italy, France, Britain, Australia, Bahrain, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are taking part in an exercise practicing the interception of ships carrying nuclear materials or components for use in advanced weapons. The exercise opposite Bahrain is the first to be held in the Persian Gulf under the three-year old proliferation security initiative. It applications could be translated equally into the enforcement of sanctions against North Korea, which conducted its first nuclear test on Oct. 9, or Iran.
On Oct. 27, Robert Joseph, the US undersecretary of state for arms control remarked: “From Iranian news reports we know the exercise got the attention of Iran.” But rather than climbing down, Tehran referred two days later to the war games as “adventurous” and placed its armed forces on a high alert which encompassed the joint naval units of the military and Revolutionary Guards in the Persian Gulf, while the Revolutionary Guards, the Iranian army, navy and air force were placed on “yellow” alert, one level short of full war.
Also Oct. 29, , supreme ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei replaced Iran’s air force chief, Karim Qavami with Brig Gen Capt Ahmad Miqani, on the recommendation of the Revolutionary Guards commander.
debkafile‘s Iran sources report that Khamenei did not approve of Qavami’s admiration for America’s military capabilities – especially the US air force’s advanced aircraft and equipment. Qavami was wont to speak out at general staff meetings in favor of procuring a new air fleet the better to stand up to a possible US attack. His successor follows the supreme ruler unquestioningly and has complete faith in the ability
3. Saudi Arabia did not join the multinational Bahrain exercise, but instead mustered its entire navy and all its special forces for deployment in dense defensive array around the biggest oil terminal in the world, at Ras Tanura. Riyadh acted in response to tangible intelligence that al Qaeda is preparing to attack its oil installations.
Warnings have intensified in recent days of impending al Qaeda attacks on the oil fields, oil ports, oil tankers and oil fields of Saudi Arabia and the Arabian oil emirates. One threat specifically targets the Bahraini offices and staff of the Benin Republic’s Societe Togolaise de Gaz and Societe Bengaz S.A.
It is not clear exactly why al Qaeda is targeting this African-owned oil company in particular. In addition, the US embassy in Riyadh has warned Americans operating in the Gulf region to stay clear of all oil installations, especially in Saudi Arabia. Another pointed alert covers Western residential compounds in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, specifying American expatriates as al Qaeda targets. Saudi security forces are standing guard at these compounds which were fatally attacked in November exactly three years ago.
4. The fourth major naval concentration is deployed in the Red Sea along Saudi Arabia’s west coast. The oil kingdom has placed its military and fleet at their highest level of preparedness for Al Qaeda-instigated terrorist attacks along this coast, particularly at the ports of Jeddah and Yanbu.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources report: That the Saudis have by and large switched their defenses against al Qaeda to coastal targets indicates the receipt of intelligence input of a new local sea base established by al Qaeda, which enables the jihadist group to stretch its capabilities for assaulting oil and Western shore targets from the sea. This base might be located on the shore of a Gulf nation, somewhere in the Arabian Sea or in the Horn of Africa.