The United States has quietly increased its military presence in the Persian Gulf to deter Tehran from attempting to shut the Strait of Hormuz, according to a New York Times report published Tuesday.
Linking the Persian Gulf with the Indian Ocean, the Strait is used to transport about a fifth of the world’s oil on a daily basis, and the popular assessment within the IDF is that Iran – which borders the channel to the north and east – has the ability to shut it down if it so chooses.
Citing a senior administration official, the report stated that the deployment of a number of fighter jets capable of striking deep into Iranian territory was partly done to reassure Israel that the US is taking the Iranian threat seriously. "When the president says there are other options on the table beyond negotiations, he means it," the report quoted the official as saying.
The report identified a number of visible elements of the US buildup in the Gulf, including sending increasing numbers of aircraft, including the F-22 Raptor, which boasts
stealth capabilities, into two separate bases in the Persian Gulf. The
planes join jets and carrier strike groups already in the area.
According to the report, the the US navy has also been sending advanced ships capable of enhancing the country's ability to patrol the Strait and reopening the waterway should Iran try to block shipping. In addition, the navy sent a converted amphibious transport and docking ship and doubled the number of minesweepers assigned to the region.
“The message to Iran is, ‘Don’t even think about it,’ the Times quoted a senior US Defense Department official as saying on condition of anonymity. “Don’t even think about closing the Strait. We’ll clear the mines. Don’t even think about sending your fast boats out to harass our vessels or commercial shipping. We’ll put them on the bottom of the gulf.”
Iran's National Security and Foreign Policy Committee drafted a bill on Sunday calling for Iran to try to stop oil tankers from shipping crude through the Strait of Hormuz to countries that support sanctions against it.
More than a third of the world's seaborne oil exports pass through the
narrow Strait of Hormuz from the oilfields of Saudi Arabia, Iran,
Kuwait, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. Qatar's liquefied
natural gas exports are all shipped through Hormuz.