Iran builds up military strength at mouth of Gulf
August 6, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EDT (0330 GMT)
From Military Affairs Correspondent Jamie McIntyre
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Defense Secretary William Perry on
Tuesday labeled Iran "a growing threat" to stability in the
Persian Gulf region.
Pentagon sources say Iran is building up its military
strength around the mouth of the Gulf, thereby increasing its
capability of shutting off one-fifth of the world's oil
"The threat from Iran has increased and is still growing,"
told a convention of lawyers in Orlando, Florida.
"To counter these threats, we maintain strong military forces
... in the Gulf region."
Last week, Perry hinted that Iran may have been behind the
June 25 attack on U.S. military housing near Dhahran, Saudi
Arabia, that killed 19 American airmen.
However, on Tuesday, Iran said in a letter that the U.S.
claim that Tehran may have been behind the truck bombing is
"disinformation," and threats of retaliation against those
involved are "state terrorism."
U.S. threats have "potentially dangerous repercussions to
international peace," Iran's foreign minister wrote U.N.
Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, calling on the
United Nations to help prevent any escalation of conflict.
On Monday, President Clinton authorized sanctions against
Iran and Libya that would punish international firms doing
with the two nations, which Washington has accused of
sponsoring international terrorism.
Pentagon planners see Iran as a more dangerous adversary than
either Iraq or Libya, because of its geographic position.
If the United States were to consider launching a Tomahawk
cruise-missile strike against Iran in retaliation for
international terrorism, military sources say the first sign
would be the quiet exodus of U.S. Navy ships from the Gulf.
The reason: Unless the United States neutralized Iran in a
large-scale attack, Iran's military could effectively block
off the mouth of the Gulf, trapping U.S. warships inside.
In the past two years, Iran has obtained two Russian
kilo-class diesel submarines, and a third is to be delivered
in a month or two. Iran also has taken delivery of 10 Chinese
fast-attack boats equipped with C802 anti-ship missiles with
a 60-mile range.
And sources say Iran continues to build up its forces on
three key islands -- Abu Musa, Tunb and Sirri -- near the
Strait of Hormuz, gateway to the Persian Gulf. Iran is adding
Hawk anti-aircraft and Silkworm anti-ship missiles to the
"I can tell you that their activities and buildup in the Gulf
seem to go far beyond their defensive need, particularly on
those three little islands," Defense Department spokesman Ken
However, Bacon played down the notion of Iran seeking to
disrupt oil supplies. He said in Washington on Tuesday that
Tehran used the Gulf for most of its oil exports, and "they
would be the first victim" of any cutoff.
But sources say Iran's formidable shore defenses could pose a
threat to U.S. warships if Iran were provoked. There's no
question the U.S. military forces in the Gulf region are far
superior to Iran's, but Iran is not defenseless.
As one senior officer explained, "Unlike Iraq and Libya, the
United States can't just whack Iran and walk away."
Reuters contributed to this report.
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