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Report Says 5 U.S. Carrier Groups Are in the Persian Gulf or Are Headed Toward It. The Evidence Supports Some of the Report.

Gary North
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August 23, 2008

Please forward this to anyone who would be interested. We need further verification. (What we have already is bad enough.)

I started my department on war with Iran two years ago.

I have given this a lot of thought.

The #1 economic issue in the world, if there is a war with Iran, will be to keep the Strait of Hormuz open. It must be protected from Iranian attacks on oil tankers. Two sunk oil tankers, and shipping insurance will go so high that few if any private oil tanker firms will be able to afford it. Oil's price would skyrocket. Chaos in the world's capital markets would be catastrophic.

It would take an armada to protect the entire Strait.

DEBKAfile reports that five carrier groups are now in the Middle East or heading there now.

DEBKAfile's military sources note that the arrival of the three new American flotillas will raise to five the number of US strike forces in Middle East waters -- an unprecedented build-up since the crisis erupted over Iran's nuclear program.

This vast naval and air strength consists of more than 40 carriers, warships and submarines, some of the last nuclear-armed, opposite the Islamic Republic, a concentration last seen just before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Our military sources postulate five objects of this show of American muscle:

1. The US, aided also by France, Britain and Canada, is finalizing preparations for a partial naval blockade to deny Iran imports of benzene and other refined oil products. This action would indicate that the Bush administration had thrown in the towel on stiff United Nations sanctions and decided to take matters in its own hands.

2. Iran, which imports 40 percent of its refined fuel products from Gulf neighbors, will retaliate for the embargo by shutting the Strait of Hormuz oil route chokepoint, in which case the US naval and air force stand ready to reopen the Strait and fight back any Iranian attempt to break through the blockade.

3. Washington is deploying forces as back-up for a possible Israeli military attack on Iran's nuclear installations.

4. A potential rush of events in which a US-led blockade, Israeli attack and Iranian reprisals pile up in a very short time and precipitate a major military crisis. . . .

DEBKAfile's military sources name the three US strike forces en route to the Gulf as the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the USS Ronald Reagan and the USS Iwo Jima. Already in place are the USS Abraham Lincoln in the Arabian Sea opposite Iranian shores and the USS Peleliu which is cruising in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

I have tried to verify this. The carriers' websites are sometimes vague as to where they are.

The Abraham Lincoln is with the Fifth Fleet's area of operations. The Fifth Fleet is in Bahrain. In the region.

The Peleliu is in the Red Sea area. In the region. It is a carrier, but may not technically be a carrier group. [August 27: Offsetting this could be the George Washington, which has left San Diego and is en route to Japan, where it will hencefort be stationed permaently. Close from now on.]

The Iwo Jima was deployed to the Persian Gulf this week.

The Ronald Reagan left Malaysia on August 21. Close to the region. [August 27: The ship is in joint maneuvers in the Arabian Sea with the Indian Navy. It will finish these maneuvers in late October.]

The Theodore Roosevelt was in the Atlantic as of July 18. It was having joint maneuvers with the French Navy. I could not find anything posted on its site later than this.

The last time the Navy had joint maneuvers with France was in 2007. They took place in 2007 in the north Arabian Sea.

Then I came across this report, published on August 8. It is very detailed. If it is a hoax, it is a very sophisticated hoax.

Operation Brimstone ended only one week ago. This was the joint US/UK/French naval war games in the Atlantic Ocean preparing for a naval blockade of Iran and the likely resulting war in the Persian Gulf area. The massive war games included a US Navy supercarrier battle group, an US Navy expeditionary carrier battle group, a Royal Navy carrier battle group, a French nuclear hunter-killer submarine plus a large number of US Navy cruisers, destroyers and frigates playing the "enemy force".

The lead American ship in these war games, the USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN71) and its Carrier Strike Group Two (CCSG-2) are now headed towards Iran along with the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN76) and its Carrier Strike Group Seven (CCSG-7) coming from Japan.

A story in The Jerusalem Post (August 14) reported that one Middle Eastern newspaper insisted that the huge task force is en route.

On Monday, Egypt's Middle East Times said Kuwait had activated its Emergency War Plan after learning that a "massive US and European armada is reported heading for the region."

The news report said the force "comprises a US Navy super carrier battle group and is accompanied by an expeditionary carrier battle group, a British Royal Navy carrier battle group and a French nuclear hunter-killer submarine," adding that it was being led by the nuclear-powered American aircraft carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which carries 80 combat jets, and which is accompanied by the Carrier Strike Group Two.

The carrier also had French Naval Rafale fighter jets on board, the report added.

The Post story also said the U.S. Defense Department denies the story. This comes from a Lt. Colonel in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs. Despite his assurances, we know that three-fifths of the story is true.

Recession vs. War with Iran

I have tried to balance my concern over a looming recession, which I see as the product of overleveraged capital markets and widespread defaults on collateralized debt. The trigger may be a crisis over the safety of bank accounts. I think this threat is getting worse. This will put downward pressure on commodities, including gold and silver. I called gold's top (so far) on March 19. You can read my explanation here.

At the same time, war in Iran could have catastrophic consequences for oil. The thought of oil above $300 or even $400, due to a cutoff of Iranian oil and Iran's attack on oil shipping, is truly frightening.

A task force this large tells me that the strategic goal is to keep the oil lanes open: Hormuz.

We are trapped. You and I and all the other little people can only sit tight, pray, and be ready for one of two scenarios, and maybe both.

Do not sell all your gold. Keep your coins. I keep saying that. Do not be in the stock market. Do not be exclusively in dollars. In a situation like this, your goal is not to make money. It is to keep from losing it.

I do not recall any time in my adult life when the world faced two seemingly opposite scenarios: falling economy/commodities and regional war that could make the recession worse, yet push up the most vital commodity of all: oil.

I would not want to be in the marine insurance business.

* * * * * * * * *

Addition, August 25:

If this fleet is for setting up a blockade on Iran, this policy could be reversed by the next President. This assumes that Iran would not regard a blockade as an act of war. But it almost certainly would.

If the fleet is used to stop Iran's attacks on oil tanker shipping in response to an attack by the U.S. or the Israeli Air Force, then the policy must become permanent. It could not be reversed. Iran would use this as a way to attack shipping.

I do not see how the fleet can be withdrawn, once a blockade or an attack takes place.

Addition: August 28:

This report by Seymour Hersh on preparations with war in the Gulf is detailed and compelling.

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