War In August?
The US Navy has unexpectedly dispatched a fourth aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf, along with a fleet of underwater drones in what is being considered just the latest move in a series of escalations leading towards a potential war with Iran.
The deployment of dozens of small, unmanned submarine-like watercraft was confirmed by the Los Angeles Times this week, which cites military officials speaking on condition of anonymity.
This particular type of craft, unmanned SeaFox submersible, are reported to be sent to the Gulf so that the US military can detect and destroy any mines that may be planted in the waterway by Iranian officials if they escalate efforts to block the Strait of Hormuz, a strategically important narrow stretch of water that exists as an immensely important conduit for any resources being moved in or out of the Middle East.
The Times says that the subs, at only 4 feet long and fewer than 100 pounds apiece, can move at speeds up to six knots at depths of 300 feet. The price-tag is reported to be $100,000 each, which includes an intricate waterproof television camera and a homing sonar system. The US rush-ordered a shipment in May in a deal with Germany under the direct of Marine Gen. James Mattis, the top US commander in the Middle East. It is reported that a fleet of SeaFox subs were deployed overseas several weeks back, but has only been confirmed now.
The United States has already sent three massive aircraft carriers to the waterways outside of Iran, including the USS Enterprise, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS Abraham Lincoln, and will now add the USS John C Stennis to that fleet in August. Unlike these behemoth ships equipped with billions worth of weaponry and service personnel, America’s other new addition to the battlefront is invisible to those on land and can be controlled from anywhere in the world.
“In the Cold War, minesweeping warfare was a large part of what the Navy did, but we have lost a lot of our minesweeping capability,” Christopher Harmer, a senior analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, tells the Times. “The SeaFox is a relatively simple, off-the-shelf system that we can put off our minesweepers but also any surface ship.”
Harmer adds to the paper that although Iran has the capabilities of coming through with its threats of closing the strait, the latest addition to the United States Navy would make sure a blockade wouldn’t last long.
“If they wanted to close the Strait of Hormuz, they could do it, but they would only be able to do it one time,” he says.
The new fleet of SeaFox subs will accompany two massive aircraft carriers and a collection of F-22 fighter jets that America has already sent towards Iran. When the United States upped its presence in Persian Gulf earlier this year, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters, “We want them to know that we are fully prepared to deal with any contingency and it’s better for them to try to deal with us through diplomacy.”
Monitoring ‘enemy moves’: Iran ‘vigilant’ over US presence in Gulf waters
Iran warns it’s closely monitoring the “enemy’s” moves from the Caribbean Sea to the Persian Gulf. The statement comes after Washington is reported to have dispatched a fourth aircraft carrier and a fleet of underwater drones to Gulf waters.
Iran’s intelligence systems are tracking all the activities of the US forces and its allies from the Caribbean Sea to the Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf, says Rear Admiral Javad Mashidi, the deputy commander of Iran’s elite Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Navy.
“By being vigilant about the plots of the enemies and maintaining a massive presence in the country’s maritime borders, the IRGC Navy counters any potential threat posed by the enemies and aggressors,” said Mashidi as quoted by Iran’s Press TV.
The US has already sent three aircraft carriers to the waterways near Iran, namely the USS Enterprise, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the USS Abraham Lincoln. Now the USS John C. Stennis will be joining this group in August, recent reports show.
Besides these vessels, dozens of small unmanned Sea Fox submersibles are to be dispatched along the same route. The submarine-like drones can detect and destroy any mines that Tehran may plant on the sea bed if they decide to increase efforts to block the Strait of Hormuz. The US has pledged to ensure the Strait of Hormuz, a major traffic lane for Gulf oil, remains open. However, so far, Iran only seems to be stepping up its hawkish rhetoric.
“The knowledge of the US and belligerent countries about the capabilities of the [Iranian] armed forces, particularly of those of the IRGC Navy, is merely a small portion of their real capabilities,” Mashidi said on Saturday.
Tehran has repeatedly threatened to block the waterway in retaliation for an oil embargo and other sanctions which the US and EU has imposed on Iran over its controversial nuclear program. A symbolic bill calling to block the strait will be taken up by the country’s parliament this month.
Another Iranian official pointed out the decision to block Hormuz lies solely with the country’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He also warned the US forces of dire consequences if Iran’s security is threatened, reports Fars News Agency.
“The IRGC’s naval forces have had the ability since the [Iran-Iraq] war to completely control the Strait of Hormuz and not allow even a single drop of oil to pass through,” IRGC naval commander Ali Fadavi said on Saturday. Tehran will increase its military presence in international waters, he added.
The West, along with Israel, suspects Tehran of aiming to build nuclear weapons. Iran denies the allegations, saying the program services the country’s needs in energy and cancer treatment.