The Obama administration released details Tuesday, July 3, of a fresh buildup of its military forces in the Persian Gulf, stressing their task is to fend off any Iranian attempt to endanger international shipping by blocking or planting mines in the Strait of Hormuz.
Shortly after the announcement, senior US administration officials said the fourth round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers taking place in Istanbul Tuesday were most probably the last: Tehran has refused to give way on the key issues of the 20-percent grade enrichment of uranium and the closure of its underground nuclear facility at Fordo.
The new war drums sent oil past $100 for the first time in three weeks.
As for the Gulf buildup, US sources said counter-measures were in place in case the extra forces were targeted for Iranian aggression.
Tehran earlier threatened military reprisals for the oil embargo imposed by the European Union Sunday, July 1. The next day, the Prophet 7 missile exercise was launched by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards simulating attacks on “enemy air bases.”
The wording of the exercise’s mission was taken as strongly intimating that Tehran had US air bases in the Persian Gulf and Middle East, including facilities used the US Air Force in Israel and Turkey, well within the sights of its missiles. It was stressed that short-, medium- and long-range missiles were being put through their paces.
Tuesday, commanders of the Iranian exercise reported that dozens of missiles had been trained for several hours on mock “enemy bases” in several countries, stating that missiles capable of hitting Israel had been successfully tested.
The US has doubled the number of fast warships in Gulf waters that are capable of instantaneously responding to Iranian moves for closing the strategic Straits of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s oil passes daily. More minesweepers are also on hand, as well as commando units for preventive action against the planting of mines in the sea lanes frequented by oil tankers on their way to and from Gulf export terminals.
debkafile’s military sources report that US, Saudi and other Gulf armies have been on high military alert since Thursday, June 28, on two counts: the escalating Syrian crisis and the potential threat to the strategic strait in response to the EU embargo. Iranian leaders have often threatened to treat this penalty as an act of war. As part of their new stance, Saudi forces moved up to the Jordanian and Iraqi borders.
According to our sources, the information released in Washington on the US Gulf buildup represents only a fraction of the concentration of strength gradually building up around Iran for five months since March. It was then that two squadrons of the F-22 Raptor stealth planes were moved to the United Arab Emirates air base at Al Dhafra and troops were flown in to two strategic islands, Masirah on the Gulf of Oman and Socotra at the meeting-point between the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean. Their numbers now are estimated at 40,000.