WASHINGTON — The United States has quietly moved significant military reinforcements into the Persian Gulf to deter the Iranian military from any possible attempt to shut the Strait of Hormuz and to increase the number of fighter jets capable of striking deep into Iran if the standoff over its nuclear program escalates.
The deployments are part of a long-planned effort to bolster the American military presence in the gulf region, in part to reassure Israel that in dealing with Iran, as one senior administration official put it last week, “When the president says there are other options on the table beyond negotiations, he means it.”
But at a moment that the United States and its allies are beginning to enforce a much broader embargo on Iran’s oil exports, meant to force the country to take seriously the negotiations over sharply limiting its nuclear program, the buildup carries significant risks, including that Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps could decide to lash out against the increased presence.
The most visible elements of this buildup are Navy ships designed to vastly enhance the ability to patrol the Strait of Hormuz — and to reopen the narrow waterway should Iran attempt to mine it to prevent Saudi Arabia and other oil exporters from sending their tankers through the vital passage.
The Navy has doubled the number of minesweepers assigned to the region, to eight vessels, in what military officers describe as a purely defensive move.
“The message to Iran is, ‘Don’t even think about it,’ ” one senior Defense Department official said. “Don’t even think about closing the strait. We’ll clear the mines. Don’t even think about sending your fast boats out to harass our vessels or commercial shipping. We’ll put them on the bottom of the gulf.” Like others interviewed, the official spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the diplomatic and military situation.
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REUTERS LIVE STREAM NOW from Egypt Tahrir Square – After election reactions.
BEIRUT | Sat Jun 23, 2012 6:46am EDT
(Reuters) – Syrian President Bashar al-Assad formed a new government on Saturday, but kept on the heads of its interior, defense and foreign ministries, state television reported.
The reappointment of Defence Minister Daoud Rajha will quash widespread rumors previously denied by the government that Rajha had been assassinated by rebels who are struggling to bring down Assad’s rule.
- Obama: China, Russia not signed on for Assad’s removal – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Syrian forces pound cities; Russia readies marines | – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Gul says downed Turkish warplane may have violated Syrian airspace (dailystar.com.lb)
- Assad names new Syrian PM, army battles rebels – Reuters (reuters.com)
(Reuters) – Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on Saturday it was not possible to ignore the fact that Syria had shot down a Turkish fighter jet and said everything that needed to be done following the incident would be done, Turkish media reported.
“It is not possible to cover over a thing like this, whatever is necessary will no doubt be done,” Gul told reporters from the central Anatolian city of Kayseri.
The Turkish military said it had lost contact with one of its F-4 fighter jets off the southern Turkish coast near Syria on Friday morning and Damascus later acknowledged it had shot the plane down.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who had been returning from a summit in Brazil when the news broke, called an emergency security meeting on his arrival in Ankara and in a statement his office said Ankara would act “decisively” once all the details had emerged.
Syria has said the Turkish aircraft was flying low and well inside Syrian territorial waters when it was shot down. Gul said it was normal for jets to briefly cross into foreign airspace and said a probe into the incident would look at whether in fact it was downed while in Turkish airspace.
“When we think of the speed of these jet planes while flying above the sea, crossing over borders for a short distance and then back again is a little bit routine,” said Gul.
He said because of the serious nature of the incident it was not possible at this stage to give any more detailed statement.
Asked whether Turkey was in contact with Syria over the incident, Gul said telephone contact had been made and said: “Because there is no security there, we withdrew our representatives from Syria. This does not mean there is no contact.”
Gul said Turkish and Syrian forces were still working together to search for the two missing crew of the aircraft.
Ankara, which had drawn close to Syria before the uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, turned against the Syrian leader when he responded violently to pro-democracy protests inspired by popular upheavals elsewhere in the Arab world.
Turkey now gives refuge to the rebel Free Syrian Army on its frontier with Syria and is sheltering more than 30,000 Syrian refugees.
Ankara has previously floated the possibility of setting up some kind of safe haven or humanitarian corridor inside Syria, which would entail military intervention, but has said it would undertake no such action without U.N. Security Council approval.
Turkey has said, however, that Assad must step down.
(Editing by Alison Williams)
- Syria apologizes for shooting down Turkish plane – reports (rt.com)
- Turkish warplane missing off Syria (standard.co.uk)
AP reports that beginning Tuesday, countries came together in protest of the violence in Syria by expelling Syrian diplomats from their countries. This includes United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey, Japan, and Bulgaria.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement Wednesday, “It is out of the question to remain silent and without any reaction in the face of this action, which amounts to a crime against humanity,” and “This grave crime against humanity by those who have attempted a massacre of civilians cannot go unpunished.”
Death counts for the massacre are being reported at up to 116 people murdered during the slaughter in on May 25. The Syrian government continues to deny responsibility, while the survivors say Assad’s troops were responsible “for at least some” of the carnage.
My heart aches for the middle east. It is a mess.
On May 10, 2012 Reuters
(Reuters) -” Russia condemned twin suicide bombings in Syria on Thursday, accusing unspecified foreign countries of encouraging such violence and saying Moscow would not yield to pressure to change its stance on a resolution to the conflict.
In a meeting with the Syrian ambassador to Moscow, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov “decisively condemned the terrorist acts that have taken place in Syria in recent days”, the ministry said in a statement.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov went further, saying foreign states shared the blame, Russian news agencies reported.