Iran is preparing boats for use in possible future suicide attacks, according to the commander of U.S. naval forces in the Persian Gulf. Reuters reports:
"They have increased the number of submarines ... they increased the number of fast attack craft," Vice Admiral Mark Fox told reporters. "Some of the small boats have been outfitted with a large warhead that could be used as a suicide explosive device. The Iranians have a large mine inventory."
"We have watched with interest their development of long range rockets and short, medium and long range ballistic missiles and of course ... the development of their nuclear programme," Fox, who heads the U.S. Fifth Fleet, said at a briefing on the fleet's base in the Gulf state of Bahrain.
Iran now has 10 small submarines, he said.
Military experts say the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet patrolling the Gulf - which always has at least one giant supercarrier accompanied by scores of jets and a fleet of frigates and destroyers - is overwhelmingly more powerful than Iran's navy.
At the same time, after the experience of al-Qaeda’s 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole in a Yemen port using a small bomb-laden boat, the military needs to be on guard. Seventeen American sailors were killed in that attack. The admiral was asked if the Navy was prepared for an Iranian attack in the Persian Gulf:
"We are very vigilant, we have built a wide range of options to give the president and we are ready... What if it happened tonight? We are ready today."
Answering Iranian threats to block the Strait of Hormuz through which almost all Middle East oil passes, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey told CBS last month that he believes Iran has the capability, “for a period of time,” to block the Strait of Hormuz, “but we would take action and reopen the Straits.”
When asked if he took Iran’s threats seriously, Vice Adm. Fox said, "Could they make like [life] extremely difficult for us? Yes they could. If we did nothing and they were able to operate without being inhibited, yeah they could close it, but I can't see that we would ever be in that position."
Last month, The Blaze reported on a threat from a senior Iranian military commander who said Iran’s submarines could ambush and hit enemy vessels – according to the Fars news agency – “specially US Aircraft carriers from the seabed throughout the Persian Gulf.”