US gears up for land operation in Persian Gulf?

A helicopter flies near US ship Iwo Jima (AFP Photo / Johan Ordones)
The US is sending an amphibious assault group and a couple of thousand US Marines to the Persian Gulf. With another US carrier making its way to Iran’s doorstep, US military still insist that this is a “regularly scheduled deployment”.

­The Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group is comprised of amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima, amphibious transport dock USS New York, and amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall. It is also reinforced with an atomic submarine and a marine helicopter squadron.

The group, which is “a versatile sea-based force that can be tailored to a variety of missions,” left port on Tuesday and is heading to the Gulf, the US Navy says.

Over 2,000 US Marines are to come on board Iwo Jima when the group makes a stop in North Carolina.
Many of those marines are veterans of ground combat in Iraq and Afghanistan making their first shipboard deployment, points out.

The US already has an amphibious group with an expeditionary marine unit in the Gulf region. The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group was deployed there in January, after Iran’s threat to close the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial route that allows the delivery of around 20 per cent of the world's oil.

Iran has repeatedly reiterated this threat over the last six month, while the US and its NATO partners kept increasing their naval presence in the region.

The US is aware that Iran has enough resources to mine the strait within a relatively short period of time. General Michael Dempsey, Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said earlier that the US must be prepared to reopen the Strait of Hormuz by force.

In March, the US sent another four minesweepers to join those already deployed there, bringing the overall number in the region to eight.

Two US aircraft carrier battle groups, headed by the USS Carl Vinson and USS Abraham Lincoln, are patrolling the waters around the strait. Another carrier, USS Enterprise, is expected to join them next month.

Although many US officials, including President Obama, still insist on using diplomacy and sanctions, they admit that “all options are on the table” to force Iran to drop its nuclear program.

Meanwhile, Israel – the closest US ally in the region – considers nuclear Iran to be “an existential threat,” which needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Last week, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak, spoke of a three-month deadline for Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions or face imminent attack.