The Guardian 1 November, 2006

US naval war games
off the Iranian coastline

Michel Chossudovsky

There is a massive concentration of US naval power in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Sea. Two US naval strike groups are deployed: USS Enterprise, and the USS Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Groups. The naval strike groups have been assigned to fighting the "global war on terrorism".

Concurrent with this concentration of US naval power, the US is also involved in military exercises in the Persian Gulf, which consists in "interdicting ships in the Gulf carrying weapons of mass destruction and missiles".

The exercise is taking place as the United States and other major powers are considering sanctions, including possible interdiction of ships on North Korea following a reported nuclear test, and on Iran, which has defied a UN Security Council mandate to stop enriching uranium.

The exercise, set for October 31, is the 25th to be organised under the US-led 66-member Proliferation Security Initiative and the first to be based in the Gulf near Bahrain, across from Iran, the officials said.

A senior US official insisted the exercise is not aimed specifically at Iran, although "it reinforces a US strategy aimed at strengthening America’s ties with states in the Gulf, where Tehran and Washington are competing for influence"

Tehran considers the US-sponsored war games in the Persian Gulf, off the Iranian coastline, as a provocation which is intended to trigger a potential crisis and a situation of direct confrontation between US and Iranian naval forces in the Persian Gulf.

Reports say the US-led naval exercises based near Bahrain will practise intercepting and searching ships "carrying weapons of mass destruction and missiles".

Iran’s official news agency IRNA quoted an unnamed foreign ministry official as describing the military manoeuvres as dangerous and suspicious.

The foreign ministry official said the US-led exercises were not in line with the security and stability of the region. "Instead, they are aimed at fomenting crises."

The USS Boxer, which is the flagship for the Boxer Expeditionary Strike Group which left Singapore on October 16, is scheduled to join the two other naval strike groups.

"We are about to enter a part of the world that can be very dangerous", said Chief Aviation Ordnanceman Jacques Beaver, Boxer’s flight deck ordnance chief. "We must be flexible and prepared to defend ourselves from any threats."

Boxer has been preparing for the weapons upload for two months by completing required maintenance and electronic pre-checks. Checks ensure that the ship’s missile and launching systems are up to standard and safe to load with live ordnance.

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