US Navy: Iran preparing ‘suicide’ attack ships

A U.S. Navy commander in the Persian Gulf said Sunday that Iran has built up its military presence there and prepared boats that could be used in suicide attacks.

Vice Adm. Mark Fox told reporters in the region that the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet would prevent any attempts by Iran to close the Strait of Hormuz even with the military buildup, according to Reuters.

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“They have increased the number of submarines ... they increased the number of fast attack craft," 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.”

Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz, a vital oil shipping lane in the Persian Gulf, in response to economic sanctions enacted by the United States and European Union. Iran has claimed it could close the strait if it wished, which would likely send oil prices sky-high.

But the Bahrain-based Fifth Fleet has said it would act to stop any closures, which would likely be attempted through placing mines in the strait.

In 2000, al Qaeda used suicide bombers to attack the USS Cole in Yemen, which got U.S. officials’ attention about the ability of small boats to attack U.S. warships, according to Reuters.

Fox said that the United States is prepared for attacks from Iran. “We are very vigilant, we have built a wide range of options to give the president and we are ready,” he said.

Tensions between Iran and the West have ratcheted up over the sanctions, which the United States passed in December and the EU passed in January. The sanctions are an attempt to convince Iran to abandon its nuclear program, which Iran says is for peaceful purposes but the United States and its allies say is intended to ultimately produce a nuclear weapon.

Most experts believe that Iran does not have the capability to close down the strait, but it could cause disruptions in oil shipping that would have an economic impact felt across the globe.

At the same time, Iran would be one of the countries hit hardest by the oil disruption, as it relies heavily on the strait for its oil exports.