As part of the steadily increasing tensions with Iran, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of US naval operations, has announced that the US will increase the strength of naval forces in the Persian Gulf and surrounding region:
Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, told reporters on Friday that he plans to double the number of mine-sweeping vessels in the Gulf from four to eight, add four additional mine-hunting helicopters, and deploy next-generation underwater mine-neutralizing drones.Eight of the Navy's fourteen minesweepers will now be permanently stationed in Bahrain (four others are stationed in Japan). Starts and Stripes had a good profile of these ships recently. Wired, describing details of it calls a Huge Iran Surge by the Navy, says four additional helicopters are being deployed.
Greenert said all U.S. ships that pass through the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most important oil-shipping routes, would also be given new infrared surveillance equipment and short-range guns and missiles for potential use against smaller Iranian vessels.
The admiral, a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that existing U.S. armaments--which were designed for long-distance fights against other powerful vessels--wouldn’t necessarily work in the narrow waterway. Pentagon strategists have long worried that Iran would try to swarm U.S. vessels with small, fast-moving attack boats as a way of countering the stronger and larger American warships.
More significantly, the Navy is increasing the number of aircraft carriers on station in the Persian Gulf. The current average of "1.5" carriers in the region (actually 1.7) is being raised to an average of "2" carriers in the region at any given moment:
The plus-up in mine forces comes even as the Navy continues working to meet a CENTCOM surge requirement to maintain two aircraft carrier strike groups in the region to support operations ashore. The Navy has been able to keep two flattops on station about 70 percent of the time, although that pace of operations is straining ships, aircraft and people.Of course, that is just an average. Next week the US will actually have three carriers in the region, with the USS Enterprise sailing on its final voyage to join the Vinson and Lincoln carriers already in the region, as well as the USS Makin Island big deck amphibious warfare ship (think small aircraft carrier).
Asked if the fleet could continue the “2.0” requirement, Greenert was adamant.
“We can maintain it well through this year and into next,” he told reporters. “There’s a price for that,” he cautioned. “What is the impact on other deployments, on maintenance, on the training, if you want to sustain that. That’s the debate that we’ll continue to have.”
Additionally, the US is refitting the old amphibious ship USS Ponce to serve in the region as a "mothership" for special forces and related operations. Britain has also recently reinforced its naval presence in the region, sending the destroyer HMS Daring, a second submarine, and additional air force units (from The Sun via PressTV, as I cannot fnd a link to the original Sun article).
This buildup of forces comes at a time when the US and Europe are sharply increasing sanctions on Iran, most dramatically by cutting Iran out of the SWIFT financial system and pressuring nations to stop importing Iranian oil. Such sanctions have a very good track record of causing suffering, but a very poor track record of actually forcing a nation to change its policies. Additionally, President Obama is stepping up the rhetoric against Iran, saying that the "The window for solving this issue diplomatically is shrinking." Hillary Clinton is also reported to have asked the Russians to pass on a message to the Iranian government that they have only one last chance to avert war, though the US government denies this report.
Finally, Israel has recently completed a round of attacks on Palestinian factions in Gaza which one Israeli official describes as "'In a sense, this was a mini-drill' for Iran." Finally, Israeli Army Chief of Staff Gantz is on an extended trip (Laura Rozen suggest he'll be at least a week) to the US and Canada for consultations.
Does all of the add up to war? Certainly war is not in any sense required or inevitable. But as the US takes increasingly hostile action to crush the Iranian economy (oil exports have fallen and the price of food is rising), steps up its rhetoric against Iran, and moves substantial military forces to near the Iranian coast, the possibility of war, whether started by intentional action or by accident, grows substantially.