The United States will lead its largest ever mine-sweeping exercise with some 20 other nations in the Persian Gulf in September, the Pentagon said Tuesday. The multi-national exercises, to be held Sept. 16-27, are “defensive,” it stressed, and aimed at preserving freedom of the seas and deterring any potential threat to close the Strait of Hormuz.
“This is not an exercise that’s aimed to deliver a message to Iran,” Pentagon spokesman George Little stressed in a press briefing with Pentagon reporters, Defense News reported.
This is a ‘”defensive exercise” that is “aimed at preserving freedom of navigation in international waterways in the Middle East,” Little said.
“The Pentagon is building a missile-defense radar station at a secret site in Qatar and organizing its biggest-ever minesweeping exercises in the Persian Gulf, as preparations accelerate for a possible flare-up with Iran, according to U.S. officials,” the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.
“The radar site will complete the backbone of a system designed to defend U.S. interests and allies such as Israel and European nations against Iranian rockets,” the Journal report said.
The U.S. has “deployed the USS Ponce to serve as logistical backup” in the exercise, and “doubled to eight the number of minesweepers in the Gulf and sent in four MH-53 Sea Stallion anti-mine choppers as well as underwater drones,” Defense News said.
(Photo: A man looks on as U.S. amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge sails through the Suez canal in Ismailia, about 120 km (75 miles) north of Cairo, March 2, 2011. Two U.S. amphibious assault ships, the Kearsarge and the Ponce, entered Egypt’s Suez Canal in March on their way to the Mediterranean, a canal official said. REUTERS/Stringer.)