US ready for Iran war
Published Monday, February 13, 2012
The US military said it was prepared for a confrontation with Iran on Sunday, escalating the war of words that has raised fears of a war in the Persian Gulf.
Mark Fox, commander of the US Fifth Fleet, told reporters from the US base in Bahrain that the navy has "built a wide range of potential options to give the president" and is "ready today" to attack Tehran.
Fox also made the unverified claim that Iran is preparing to use small boats as suicide attackers.
"They have increased the number of submarines ... they increased the number of fast attack craft," Fox said. "Some of the small boats have been outfitted with a large warhead that could be used as a suicide explosive device. The Iranians have a large mine inventory," he said.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad condemned the US threat, saying it was an attempt to prevent the state from prospering outside of Western influence.
“All plots hatched by enemies are aimed at hindering Iran's progress because they are fearful of our country’s development," Iranian state media reported him as saying.
He said Western forces were preparing the attack because they are concerned that Iran will “turn into a major obstacle against arrogant and hegemonic powers.”
It is the latest escalation in a war of words between Washington and Tehran, as the US continues to press Iran over its disputed nuclear program.
The US and EU have both imposed new stringent sanctions on Iran, targeting the country's lucrative oil industry.
Iran recently called for US forces to vacate the Persian Gulf, stressing their presence has a destabilizing effect on the region.
Tehran, possessing arguably the most powerful navy out of all Gulf-bordering countries, has also threatened to close the vital Strait of Hormuz should Western powers successfully curtail Iran's oil exports.
The US and Britain have vowed to take action should Iran move against the strait – through which 40 percent of the world's oil trade passes.
Iran insists its nuclear activities are peaceful, and has condemned Western double standards regarding Israel's nuclear program – the only Middle Eastern state said to possess a nuclear arsenal.
Israel has avoided international scrutiny over its nuclear weapons, while joining Western efforts to isolate Iran over its program.
But the West needs Asian cooperation for its oil embargo to have a full impact on Iran, as most Iranian oil exports destinations are to Asia's energy-hungry economies.
China, Japan, South Korea and India continue to either oppose or express serious reservations about an embargo.
A senior Chinese diplomat was in Tehran on Monday, urging Iran to cooperate more with the United Nations' nuclear watchdog body.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said on Monday that Assistant Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu began a two-day visit to Iran on Sunday and urged Tehran to resume talks with the five permanent UN Security Council members.
China – the world's second largest economy – is concerned at the risk of military conflict in the Persian Gulf, and any potential disruptions to oil supplies.
But Beijing has criticized US and EU unilateral sanctions on Iran, and rebuffed US calls for the Chinese to reduce oil imports from the Islamic republic.
(Al-Akhbar, AP, Reuters)