The United States and Great Britain are leading an armada of cruisers, aircraft carriers, and mine sweepers from 25 countries for 12 days of the largest exercise of "war games" in the history of the Persian Gulf region, the Guardian of London reported over the past weekend. The multi-national naval force includes three U.S. Nimitz-class carrier groups, "each of which has more aircraft than the entire complement of the Iranian air force," the British paper reported. They are accompanied by at least 12 battleships, including ballistic missile cruisers, frigates, destroyers, and assault ships carrying thousands of U.S. Marines and Special Forces.
The British force consists of minesweepers and a logistics vessel. The UK destroyer HMS Diamond, one of the most powerful ships in the British fleet, will also be operating in the region, the Guardian said. The coalition forces are expected to practice tactics in breaching a potential Iranian blockade. The exercises, including minesweeping drills, are in anticipation of a potential blockade of the Strait of Hormuz by Iran, which would likely occur if Israel carries out its threat to launch air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities if Israeli or Western intelligence determines that Iran is on the verge of developing a nuclear weapon. The long-standing feud over Iran's nuclear program has increased tensions in the region, despite Iran's insistence that it is developing nuclear power for energy and for medical uses.
A blockade would raise havoc with world energy prices. About 18 million barrels, or a third of the world's oil that is traded by sea, pass each day through the Strait of Hormuz, which is only 21 miles wide at its narrowest point. Iran has threatened a blockade in the past in retaliation for an embargo on Iranian oil by Western nations. But the Tehran government is promising far more than a blockade if either Israel or the United States launches a military attack over the disputed nuclear sites. The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard warned September 16 that "nothing will remain" of Israel if it takes military action against his country. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari said Iran's response to any attack would begin near the Israeli border. Iran maintains close ties with militants in Gaza and Lebanon, both of which border Israel.
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Photo: This handout photo released by the U.S. Navy, 5th Fleet taken on Aug. 29, 2012 shows USS Navy mine counter measure ships, from right to left, USS Dextrous, USS Sentry, USS Devastator and USS Pioneer get in line to conduct an astern replenishment-at-sea: AP Images