Quiet U.S. Middle East Military Build Up

News Brief – January 14, 2012

In contrast to the build up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 the current U.S. military build-up in countries around Iran has received little media attention.
No doubt with the memory of massive anti-war protests in the months prior to the invasion of Iraq still fresh, Washington and its allies have been playing down the increasing force levels.
Although much of it is being done under the guise of ‘routine force rotation’ or military exercises, a military build-up is nonetheless most definitely underway.
The Pentagon has just shifted 15,000 combat troops to Kuwait, in addition to the small contingent already stationed there.
The new arrivals include two Army infantry brigades and a helicopter unit – a substantial increase to a U.S. military outpost that formerly only served as a staging post for supplies and personnel heading to Iraq.
Meanwhile a further 10,000 U.S. military personnel are currently heading toward Israel, ostensibly to take part in joint military exercise with Israeli forces. Codenamed “Austere Challenge 12” the drill is scheduled to begin in spring and will be the biggest joint military exercise ever undertaken by the two allies.
Close at hand while US forces practise missile defence drills with their Israeli counterparts will be the USS Enterprise, which we understand will be undergoing exercises in the Mediterranean. Also comprising the USS Enterprise Joint Task Force will be a carrier air wing, destroyers and guided missile cruisers.
Of course this doesn’t include U.S. and Western forces stationed in Afghanistan, on Iran’s eastern border, estimated to be over one hundred thousand combat troops. In addition to combat aircraft and helicopters already operating there.
Nor does this count the U.S. troops still in Iraq. Despite the much-publicised “withdrawal” of U.S. forces from Iraq elements of its military still remain and not just as “advisors”.
It’s difficult to get precise numbers but as of late 2011 it was estimated that as many as 10,000 U.S. servicemen might still be in Iraq in early 2012.
Nor have we included Coalition forces stationed at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, home to the headquarters of United States Central Command (USCC) and United State Air Force Central Command. The airbase was used by both the US and the UK in their campaign in Afghanistan and can accommodate up to 10,000 troops and 120 aircraft.   
Soon two U.S. carrier groups, the USS Carl Vinson and the USS Abraham Lincoln, will also join U.S. forces in the region. Ready to meet them will be Britain’s HMS Daring, one of the most advanced warships in the Royal Navy currently on patrol the Gulf.
Of course long-range bombers would probably be used in any large scale bombing campaign against Iran and these could come via Deigo Garcia in the Indian Ocean or from U.S. airbases in Europe.
This is no more than a cursory glance at U.S. forces in the region and a little further research will no doubt yield a more comprehensive listing.
Officially the deployments are not meant to suggest preparation for war, but are simply preparations for any eventuality should the standoff with Tehran escalate into open conflict.
Nonetheless, although the current accumulation of U.S. forces in the region may not be publicised as a “military build-up”, a lot of heavy firepower belonging to the U.S. or its allies is now ready should the go-ahead for a strike be given.

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