Sea drills in Gulf ‘not targeted at Tehran’
Manama, May 13, 2013
A major defence exercise in the Arabian Gulf involving 41 nations is not taking place as a show of force to Iran, said a top US Navy commander.
The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) 13 was set up to explore ways to counter new maritime security threats, US Naval Forces Central Command and US Fifth Fleet Commander Vice Admiral John Miller was quoted as saying in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
"It is our mission and area of responsibility to maintain maritime security and engage tactically on a regular basis," he said. "This is one of the largest defence exercises and is not focussed on one nation or one entity."
Commander Miller was speaking during a Press conference at the Fifth Fleet headquarters in Juffair to brief journalists about IMCMEX 13, which begins today (May 13).
"We have a fair idea of their (Iran's) maritime capability," he said. "We are out in the Gulf waters every day and they are a capable force and we respect that."
Defending on the timing of the exercise, Commander Miller said it was imperative to use latest technology and systems and bring together nations to work in tandem to protect international commerce and trade, mine countermeasures, maritime security operations and maritime infrastructure protection.
In addition to minesweeping and flying drones, this year's event will also include escorting ships and protecting offshore terminals that oil and gas exporters in the Gulf rely on.
Iran last year repeatedly threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow exit route through which most of the Gulf's oil and gas is exported, amid heightened tension with the West over Tehran's controversial nuclear development programme.
"I would not wish that to happen as 30 per cent of oil passes through this route, including 15-17 million barrels a day... it is the life and blood of the global economy," said United Kingdom Maritime Component Commander Commodore Simon Ancona.
"If there are any water blockages it affects global economy."
Commodore Ancona said that multilateral defence exercise, ending on May 30, featured representatives from 41 nations taking part.
He said that 35 ships, 18 unmanned underwater vehicles, about 6,000 personnel and more than 100 explosive ordinance disposal divers will deploy as participants during IMCMEX 13.
"One of the greatest challenges we face is the ability to work together and more importantly shift data and communications," added Commodore Ancona.
Meanwhile, Commodore Miller voiced his concern regarding the situation in Syria, but said he was optimistic progress would be made.
He also said despite sequestration spending cuts the US Navy was willing to spend money for the major exercise as it was an important investment for participating nations. – TradeArabia News Service