April 10, 2012
At least 200 American and Arab Gulf fighter-bombers thundered overhead Sunday, April 8 at the outset of the biggest air force exercise ever conducted in the Gulf region. They are simulating war with Iran and an operation for reopening the strategic Straits of Hormuz if it is closed by Tehran. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that 100 of the warplanes took off from the USS Enterprise and USS Abraham Lincoln which are cruising with their strike groups opposite Iranian shores. The Saudi, UAE, Kuwaiti and Bahraini air forces contributed the other 100.
In an unprecedented show of military solidarity with the US, Bahrain, which hosts the US Fifth Fleet High Command, was also chosen by Gulf Cooperation Council – GCC – members for their unified exercise headquarters to be located at the Shaikh Isa Air Base.
Tehran was being told that neither the Obama administration nor the Gulf Arab governments were deterred by its threats of retaliation against emirates placing bases at the disposal of foreign forces for an attack on Iran.
However, shortly after the exercise began, Iranian ambassador to Kuwait Rouhullah Qahremani called urgently on Kuwait Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen Khalid Al-Sabah with a warning that the Iranian air and navy would attack the Gulf nations taking part in the exercise unless they withdrew at once.
The Kuwaiti army chief took Iran’s threat to the GCC Secretary General for Military Affairs Maj. Gen. Khalifa Humaid Al-Kaabi. Kuwait and Riyadh also briefed the Americans.
The exercise is due to end on April 15, the day after the six world powers launch resumed nuclear negotiations with Iran in Istanbul. However some Iranian sources were hinting Monday that they would not come to the talks under military threat.
This article was posted: Tuesday, April 10, 2012 at 2:53 am