The military commands in both the US and Britain have sought increased funding and stepped up deployments of arms and personnel to the Persian Gulf in preparation for an anticipated war against Iran.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Pentagon, acting on the request of the Central Command, which oversees US military operations in the region, has requested the re-allocation of some $100 million in military spending to ratchet up war preparations.
The Journal cast these preparations as defensive measures aimed at countering an Iranian threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, the waterway through which some 20 percent of the world's exported oil flows. Iran's threat came in response to trade sanctions and embargoes imposed by the US and Western Europe that amount to a blockade, an act of war, as well as open Israeli threats to bomb the country.
"The US military has notified Congress of plans to preposition new mine-detection and clearing equipment and expand surveillance capabilities in and around the strait, according to defense officials briefed on the requests," the Journal reports. "The military also wants to quickly modify weapons systems on ships so they could be used against Iranian fast-attack boats, as well as shore-launched cruise missiles, the defense officials said."
Under the Pentagon's plans, US warships would be equipped with anti-tank weapons, rapid-fire machine guns and light weapons for use against the Iranian navy's small speedboats. They would be backed by increased numbers of unmanned drones.
The Journal adds that "US special-operations teams stationed in the United Arab Emirates would take part in any military action in the strait should Iran attempt to close it."
The US has already doubled the number of aircraft carrier battle groups it has stationed in the Persian Gulf area, deploying both the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Carl Vinson. It also has substantial numbers of warplanes operating out of the Arabian Peninsula and tens of thousands of troops near Iran's borders in Afghanistan and Kuwait.
The new war preparations, the Journal states, show "the extent to which war planners are taking tangible steps to prepare for a possible conflict with Iran, even as top White House and defense leaders try to tamp down talk of war and emphasize other options."
The report in the Journal indicates that the Pentagon wants the military buildup in the Gulf in place by autumn, when Pentagon planners anticipate that Israel will launch an unprovoked military strike on Iran.
High-level discussions on Iran between Washington and the Israeli state are scheduled over the next several days, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak having left Israel Monday for two days of talks with US officials, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu set to hold talks with Obama on March 5.
The newspaper noted that the latest move to fund an anticipated war with Iran follows the Pentagon's request in January for $82 million "to improve its largest conventional bunker-buster bomb, the 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator. The bomb, officials said, was designed to take out bunkers like those used by Iran to protect its most sensitive nuclear development work."
There are indications that a heated debate continues over whether to supply Israel with these 30,000-pound weapons, which are substantially more powerful than the 5,000-pound Guided Bomb Unit 28 (GBU-28) bunker busters that the Obama administration transferred to the Zionist state last year.
David Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, summed up the growing drumbeat within sections of the US ruling establishment Sunday as follows: "Arm the Syrian rebels! And, while we're at it, give the Israelis the tools they need -- bunker-busters, refueling aircraft -- so that if they decide to strike Iran's nuclear facilities, they'll get it right the first time."
Acknowledging that Washington's aims in Syria have everything to do with weakening Iran in preparation for "regime change" there as well, Sanger continued: "The argument commonly heard inside and outside the White House these days is that if the Assad government cracks, Iran's ability to funnel weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas will be badly damaged -- and its influence will wither accordingly. Similarly, if Iran's effort to walk up to the edge of a nuclear weapons capability can be set back with a few well-placed GBU-31 bunker-busters, the country's hopes of challenging Israel and Saudi Arabia to be the region's biggest power will be deferred."
In other words, behind all of the hyped warnings about Iran's imminent acquiring of nuclear weapons, the reality is that US imperialism and its allies are engaged in a campaign of economic, political and military aggression against Iran, whose aim is to prevent the country from emerging as a regional power capable of challenging Washington's hegemony over the energy-rich regions of the Persian Gulf and Central Asia.
The nuclear issue has been used as the pretext for preparing a new war in the region, just as the claims about "weapons of mass destruction" were employed in the run-up to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
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