Washington: US has moved more warships and fighter aircraft to the Persian Gulf to keep the strategic Straits of Hormuz open and strike deep within Iran if the stand-off over its nuclear programme escalates.
Quoting senior American officials, The New York times said the new deployment to bolster military presence in the gulf is aimed at reassuring Israel that Washington is serious about neutralizing Iran's nuclear ambitions.
The reports of US moving new forces to the region came as Tehran announced that it had test-fired a new range of ballistic missiles capable of striking Israel.
Iranian news agency IRNA said Iran's revolutionary guards had fired 2,000 kilometer range Shahab-3 missiles in the Kavir Desert in central Iran as part of its war games designs to show its ability to hit back, if attacked.
IRNA also said that along with the medium range Shahab-3 Iran had also test fired 300-500 kms strike distance Shahab-1 and Shahab-2 missiles.
The Times quoted senior US officials as saying that Washington was determined to keep the strategic waterway open at all costs.
"The message to Iran is, 'Don't even think about it,'" one senior Defense Department official said.
"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," the official said.
Times said since late spring, stealth F-22 and older F-15C warplanes had moved into two separate bases in the Persian Gulf to bolster the combat jets already in the region and the carrier strike groups that are on constant tours of the area.
These new deep penetration strike aircraft give the US military greater capability against coastal missile batteries that could threaten shipping, as well as the reach to strike other targets deeper inside Iran.
The American Navy has doubled the number of minesweepers assigned to the region, to eight vessels, in what military officers describe as a purely defensive move.
First Published: Tuesday, July 03, 2012, 21:35