03 July 2012
Iran and the United States on Tuesday underlined their military readiness for conflict should diplomacy over the Iranian nuclear program fail. Tehran announced that it had successfully fired several dozen missiles, including a medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic weapon with a range capable of striking targets in Israel, in war games in its central desert region called Grand Prophet 7. The US military is also bolstering its military presence in the Persian Gulf region, including the deployment of warships and F-22 stealth fighter jets.
US officials also stressed that Washington will view any attempt by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz as a "red line" triggering a US military reaction. "The message to Iran is, 'Don't even think about it,'" the ‘New York Times’ quoted a senior Defense Department official as saying. "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."
Meanwhile, technical experts from Iran and from world powers were due to meet in Istanbul in the latest round of talks. The negotiations were downgraded from a senior political level after three previous rounds this year that failed to bridge differences.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, speaking on Monday to the ISNA news agency, said that, should the talks collapse, "the other alternative is confrontation." US President Barack Obama has also repeatedly said that "all options" - including that of US military action - were on the table regarding Iran.
Some 120 lawmakers in Iran's 290-seat parliament have so far signed on to a draft bill calling for the Strait of Hormuz, at the entrance to the oil-rich Persian Gulf, to be closed to oil tankers headed to Europe in retaliation for an EU embargo on Iranian crude that came into effect on Sunday.
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