Washington is prepared to engage in war over the Strait of Hormuz at any moment, the Pentagon says. Some observers say the dangerous move is being viewed as a far from worst-case scenario in America, especially by its hawks.
American troops in the Persian Gulf region do not require any build-up for a possible military conflict with Iran, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday.
"We are not making any special steps at this point in order to deal with the situation. Why? Because, frankly, we are fully prepared to deal with that situation now," Panetta explained.
The US says it will attack Iran if it tries to block the Strait of Hormuz, a crucial route for regional oil transit. Tehran has threatened to stop traffic through the Strait in response to mounting pressure, including threats, sanctions and particularly an air strike on its nuclear facilities, which Israel and the US say are on the table.
The US Navy has two aircraft carrier strike groups in the region at the moment, presumably performing a routine rotation. US troops are also stationed in a number of nearby countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and other Gulf nations.
Panetta’s ready-for-war rhetoric was frowned upon by Beijing. China’s foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin commented on Thursday that “sanctions and military threats will not help solve the problem but only aggravate the situation.”
Russia holds a similar position on the brewing conflict. "What Western states… have been adding as they adopt their additional unilateral sanctions against Iran has nothing in common with the desire to keep the nuclear weapons nonproliferation regime unshaken,” Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, warned at his Q&A conference on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has reiterated that Tehran wants talks on the nuclear issue, which Western powers cite as the main motive for sanctions against the country. But, Salehi maintained, it is up to the other parties, particularly the US and EU, to arrange a time and place for a meeting.
“We want peace and tranquility in the region,” Salehi said during a visit to Turkey. “I am calling to all countries in the region, please don't let yourselves be dragged into a dangerous position.”
At the same time, the EU’s foreign policy and security chief, Catherine Ashton, told journalists such a meeting is not being prepared at the moment.
US President Barack Obama is being pressured by domestic hawks to attack Iran, according to political analyst Igor Khokhlov from the Institute of World Economy and International Relations.
“There is a lot of data that both the US and the Israeli military have gotten agreement from Obama that the attack will take place unless Iran totally dismantles its nuclear program,” he told RT. “The plans for this attack have been developed since the early years of Obama's administration according to sources at several independent organizations currently monitoring the situation.”
And while some real concern about the controversial Iranian nuclear program does exist all over the world, including China and Russia, the real objective for the US is regime change in Iran and installing a puppet government in Tehran, analyst believes.
“Given the fact that there is a great deal of Israeli influence over US foreign policy, I believe that the real objective is to draw Iran into a full-scale war with the US and its mighty allies. The United States wants to invade Iran and replace the existing anti-American and anti-Israeli government with a new one that would be its ally,” Khokhlov said.
Such a conflict would be on a greater scale and result in greater loss of life than the invasion of Iraq or Afghanistan, the expert believes.
“America does have very little hard and reliable intelligence data about each of the Iranian nuke sites and so their bombing will have to be extensive and long, kind of like a Yugoslavian campaign back 13 years ago, and the areas around the suspected sites will have to be turned into a Lunar landscape,” he explained.
The uneasy tension in the region may result in a conflict running amok even against the wishes of the parties involved, warns Philip Giraldi, an ex-CIA officer who is currently the executive director of the Council for the National Interest think-tank. The worst-case scenario would be a world war, he says.
“The problem is that Iran is surrounded by a number of countries which are essentially hostile to it, and some of them are nuclear armed. This is a perfect cauldron for starting something with a relatively minor incident that escalates and escalates and escalates and winds up as a major war,” he told RT.
Meanwhile Foreign Minister Salehi, who is currently visiting Turkey, says the saber rattling is just meant to distract the public.
“The US is using regional powers to pressure Iran. A conflict in the Gulf is against the interests of all of those countries. The US is demonstrating to the world its power, but at the same time they secretly send letters suggesting meeting and sorting things out. The Obama administration is not honest with its own people,” the Iranian diplomat lashed out.