US, UK, France launch sea exercise for naval blockade on Iran

The White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said it expected Iran to “miss an opportunity to accept” the incentives package.
debkafile‘s military sources report that Operational Brimstone, starting Monday, July 21, aimed at giving military teeth to the two-week ultimatum the six world powers gave Iran in Geneva Saturday to accept the suspension of uranium enrichment or face harsh sanctions and isolation.
After warning of punitive measures against Iran, Condoleezza Rice met the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council plus Egypt, Jordan and Iraq in Abu Dhabi. First she was briefed by Under Secretary of State William Burns.
The penalty of withholding refined oil products from Iran would be exercised by means of a partial international naval blockade of its Gulf ports.
Taking part in the 10-day exercise in the Atlantic Ocean are more than a dozen ships, including the US carrier strike group Theodore Roosevelt and expeditionary strike group Iwo Jima; the French submarine Amethyste, and the British HMS Illustrious Carrier Strike Group, as well as a Brazilian frigate.
Six vessels from the Norfolk Naval State will play the role of “enemy” forces.
About 15,000 sailors will be involved in Operation Brimstone. Both the Roosevelt and Iwo Jima will be deployed in the Middle East in the coming months.
The exercise is scheduled to end July 31, two days before the US-European ultimatum to Iran expires. Immediately after the Geneva talks ended in failure, the US State Department issued a statement giving Tehran the option of “cooperation or confrontation.”
A partial blockade of Iran’s shores, a key element of the new sanctions, would be limited to withholding from Iran supplies of benzene and other refined oil products – not foodstuffs or other commodities. Short of refining capacity, Iran has to import 40 percent of its benzene consumption and will be forced to react to the stoppage.
Operation Brimstone boasts two striking features:
1. It will include for the first time units of the US Expeditionary Combat Command, who are trained to operate in shallow coastal waters and rivers, such as the coastal waters of the Persian Gulf and the small islands around its chokepoint, the Strait of Hormuz. Iranian Revolutionary Guards marine units are posted on these islands.
The international force will have to control the islands to ensure oil shipping freed passage out to world markets.
2. The Roosevelt’s decks will for the first time host French Rafale fighter jets which will share space with US warplanes, while the only French carrier Charles de Gaulle undergoes maintenance.
Our military sources note that French warplanes have in the past performed short landings and takeoff drills on US carriers from the Charles de Gaulle, but never before taken part in a fully cooperative operational exercise.
This joint endeavor signifies that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is fully committed to a joint US-European military action if necessary to halt Iran’s progress toward a nuclear weapon.
Addressing the Knesset in Jerusalem Monday, July 21, British prime minister George Brown said: Iran must “suspend its nuclear program and accept our offer of negotiations or face growing isolation and the collective response not of one nation but of many nations.”
Brown’s spokesman said the premier did not rule out “extended sanctions in some form on the oil and gas sector” in Iran. Sources said that could involve sanctions on spare parts for Tehran’s fairly limited domestic oil refining capacity.

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