A US naval strike group led by the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz arrived off South Korea Saturday for drills, following joint exercises that infuriated North Korea.
The Nimitz Strike Group includes 64 aircraft as well as cruisers and destroyers, said the group’s commander, Rear Admiral Mike S. White, after the aircraft carrier anchored off the southern port of Busan.
“I believe it’s critically important that we maintain our inter-operability with our partners like the Republic of Korea (South Korea)”, White told journalists.
He said the USS Nimitz was “on a scheduled deployment” to the Asian region. Read More
On 16 January, world oil markets were monitoring talks between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)and Iran for any signs as to whether Tehran, facing intensifying sanctions pressure, and the IAEA may be prepared to reach an agreement to resolve outstanding issues pertaining to Iran’s nuclear energy programme.
Iran denies Western accusations that it is seeking to develop a weapons capability, saying its nuclear programme is aimed only at power generation.
Six world powers – the United States, France, Germany, China, Russia and Britain – and Iran may resume their separate negotiations later in January to try to reach a broader diplomatic settlement.
However, on 13 January Iran flexed its military muscle, holding exercises near the port city of Bandar Abbas, which holds a strategic position on the Strait of Hormuz, which has heavy oil tanker traffic. The drills also allowed Iranian military forces to operate new weapons. Iranian sources note that the exercises are “normal” and Iranian armed forces must be well supplied by new conventional weapons and prepared for any threat despite budget problems. Read More
Iran’s Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibolah Sayyari told us about the aim of these drills and its message for Iran’s enemies and friends.
The aim of the Velayat 91 Drills is to show the strength of Iran’s Navy and its ability to defend the country’s territorial waters, its interests and its resources in the sea.
The drills also demonstrate Iran’s ability to bring sustainable security in the region. The drills have a message of peace for the countries in the region and it conveys to its enemies that the Iranians are serious about protecting their borders, interests and resources.
The top commander also stated that Iran’s Navy on the first day of the drills will send a fleet of warships to the high seas to display its power and more.
As Stratfor reminds us, this is where US naval assets are located in relation to the 6-day wargame: right in it, in other words the probability for an accident, whether predetermined, false flagged, or otherwise, is high to quite high.
Iran claimed on Tuesday that it has captured an unmanned US drone after the aircraft entered Iranian airspace, underscoring the increasing tensions between the two countries.
Rear Admiral Ali Fadavi, commander of the Revolutionary Guards marine forces, told state media on Tuesday that the drone, which was “patrolling Persian Gulf in recent days to conduct reconnaissance operations and collect information was captured and brought down immediately . . . after it had entered Iran’s territory”.
He told the semi-official Fars news agency, which is close to the Revolutionary Guards, that the drone was a ScanEagle, which are usually launched from large warships. Iran’s state television said the US had a “network of drones” in the Gulf region.
A US navy spokesman told the Associated Press that there were no US drones missing in the Middle East. Read More
War Imminent In Straits Of Hormuz? $200 A Barrel Oil?
The pieces and policies for potential conflict in the Persian Gulf are seemingly drawing inexorably together. Since 24 December the Iranian Navy has been holding its ten-day Velayat 90 naval exercises, covering an area in the Arabian Sea stretching from east of the Strait of Hormuz entrance to the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden. The day the maneuvers opened Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari told a press conference that the exercises were intended to show “Iran’s military prowess and defense capabilities in international waters, convey a message of peace and friendship to regional countries, and test the newest military equipment.” The exercise is Iran’s first naval training drill since May 2010, when the country held its Velayat 89 naval maneuvers in the same area. Velayat 90 is the largest naval exercise the country has ever held. Read More
A former CIA analyst says the notion that stirring up hostilities towards Iran will make Israel more secure will prove to be “the big mistake of the century.”
“If this rhetoric spins out of control, if there are incidents in the Persian Gulf or the Strait of Hormuz that lead to wider hostilities, as night follows the day, this could spin not only into a regional war but even farther; and… of Israel, I fear, may cease to exist.”
Iran’s First Vice President Mohammad-Reza Rahimi warned on December 27 that imposing sanctions against the country’s energy sector will prompt Tehran to prevent oil cargoes from passing through the strategic Strait of Hormuz.
“If they impose sanctions on Iran’s oil, not even a drop of oil will be allowed through the Strait of Hormuz,” he warned. Read More
As the rest of the world enjoys Festivus or whatever celebration one indulges in, Iran is launching a “massive” 10 day war games naval exercise right in the belly of the beast. From Xinhua: “Iranian Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari on Thursday announced the upcoming launch of ten-day massive naval exercises in the international waters, the local satellite Press TV reported. Sayyari said at a press conference on Thursday that the naval maneuvers dubbed Velayat 90 will start on Saturday and will cover an area of 2,000 (1,250-mile) km stretching from the east of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Aden, the report said. This is the first time that Iran’s Navy carries out naval drills in such a vast area, he was quoted as saying. He said that the exercises will manifest Iran’s military prowess and defense capabilities in the international waters, convey a message of peace and friendship to regional countries and test the newest military equipment among other objectives, said the report. He added that the newest missile systems and torpedoes will be employed in the maneuvers, adding that the most recent tactics used in subsurface battles will also be demonstrated. Iranian destroyers, missile-launching vessels, logistic vessels, drones and coastal missiles will also be tested, said the Iranian commander, according to the report.” And while conventional wisdom is that the market is focused on what the upcoming closure of the Straits of Hormuz means for tanker routs and oil prices, there is another more disturbing possibility: with all those Iranian canoes, and soapboxes floating around, one wonders if one is bound to have a close encounter with USS CVN-74 John Stennis, which as the updated naval map below from Stratfor shows, will be smack in the middle of the action Read More
In a surprise move, on Tuesday evening the defence minister replaced the country’s top brass.
An extraordinary meeting of the Government Council of Foreign Affairs and Defence (Kysea), which comprises the prime minister and other key cabinet members, accepted Defence Minister Panos Beglitis’ proposal that the following changes be made to army, navy and air force and the general staff:
General Ioannis Giagkos, chief of the Greek National Defence General Staff, to be replaced by Lieutenant General Michalis Kostarakos
Lieutenant General Fragkos Fragkoulis, chief of the Greek Army General Staff, to be replaced by lieutenant general Konstantinos Zazias
Lieutenant General Vasilios Klokozas, chief of the Greek Air Force, to be replaced by air marshal Antonis Tsantirakis
Vice-Admiral Dimitrios Elefsiniotis, chief of the Greek Navy General Staff, to be replaced by Rear-Admiral Kosmas Christidis
It is understood that the personnel changes took many members of the government and of the armed forces by surprise. Read More