The Guardian (UK)
May 3, 2013
Up to 40 nations including UK taking part in exercise; Mini-subs can stay in water longer than divers
Nineteen underwater drones, some of them from the UK, have been sent to the Gulf as part of a naval operation designed to deter mine-laying amid continuing tensions between the west and Iran over Tehran’s nuclear programme.
Up to 40 nations will take part in the three-week exercise starting next week, the biggest ever undertaken in the region. The US navy vice-admiral in overall charge of the exercise, John Miller, said it was not a provocative gesture towards Iran.
In an interview with the Guardian, Miller said the importance of the Gulf’s sea lanes to the global economy made it essential to deter states as well as terrorists from attempts to mine waters through which 20% of the world’s oil supply travels each day.
“Mine counter-measure activity is an inherently defensive exercise, there cannot be a misinterpretation that it’s an offensive exercise in any way,” said Miller, head of the US 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
“It assures [everyone] that if someone puts mines in the water that a large number of nations from across the globe will respond. So if you have nearly 40 nations that are willing to just practise, imagine how many nations would participate if someone put mines in the water? If you are thinking about putting mines in the water you pay the price for it in terms of world opinion and in relatively rapid fashion those mines are going to be taken out of the water.
“Japan gets about 75% of their oil from the Gulf, China gets about 70%, so imagine the effect on China’s economy if oil stops suddenly stops flowing. The effect would be immediate. It is important to the whole world those water ways are free-flowing.”
Though some are shy of admitting it, most of the countries around the Gulf are sending ships or providing support for the exercise, and Miller said he expected the Iranian navy would be watching closely.