Recent indications and military movements from the Gulf region point to worsening hostilities between Iran and Israel, which by default involve Israel's ally, the United States. A senior U.S. official, who wished to remain anonymous, had recently said that Israel is considering a military strike against Iran seriously, even though Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his advisers haven't decided whether to attack or not.
Netanyahu, scheduled to visit Washington D.C. next month, has been maintaining extreme opacity over the war plans with its most important strategic partner, the U.S.
Here is a roundup of the recent military movements in the region involving Iran, U.S., Israel, NATO and Saudi Arabia.
Two of Iran's warships entered the Mediterranean last Saturday in the wake of U.S. National Security Advisor Tom Donilon's visit to Israel to discuss Iran's nuclear weapons program with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. This is only the second time since the 1979 Islamic revolution that Iranian ships passed through the Suez Canal in an attempt to show Tehran's might to the regional nations.
According to the U.S. Naval commander in the Gulf region, Iran has built up its naval forces in the Gulf and has readied boats that could be used in suicide attacks. Some of the Iranian boats are capable of carrying cruise missiles and rockets.
Speaking about military activity from the Iranian side, the head of the U.S. fleet in Gulf, Rear Admiral Troy Shoemaker, said on Feb. 17 that Iran had so far sent a couple of surveillance aircraft, a helicopter and a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle).
Washington sent Nimitz-class nuclear-powered USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier into the Strait of Hormuz on Feb. 14, which sailed provocatively close to the Iran shore accompanied by the powerful Cape St. George destroyer cruising along. An Iranian patrol boat immediately started tailing the massive U.S. aircraft carrier, but it was eventually turned around.
According to a Reuters report, encounters between the U.S. and Iranian boats have become more frequent in recent weeks, a constant reminder of the standoffish atmosphere of the region.
Iran had previously warned another U.S. aircraft carrier the USS John C. Stennis against entering the Strait of Hormuz over a month ago, but has been keeping quiet about USS Abraham Lincoln.
The U.S. Navy fleet known as Carrier Strike Group Nine has been making forays through Hormuz provoking Iran. According to military experts, U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet patrolling the Gulf of which USS Abraham Lincoln is a part, is equipped with scores of fighter jets and destroyers and is more powerful than Iran's navy. The 20-storeyed USS Abraham Lincoln currently has over 5000 sailors.
Israeli military will have to form complex strategies, involving scores of airplanes to launch a successful strike on Iran. According to a USA Today report, Israeli Air Force would face issues regarding aerial refueling in the wake of military action, since it remains unknown if any country is willing to provide Israel permission to set up covert refueling facility in the desert.
Israel's U.S.-built aircraft are capable of penetrating the Iranian air defenses, but Israel would need to commit additional aircraft to jam radars and in other ways neutralize Iran's radar and missile systems, analysts said.
Though IDF is equipped with powerful bombs to penetrate bunkers, Iran's nuclear facilities are scattered throughout the country, some of them specially reinforced to withstand missile attacks.
According to analysts, Israel's timing to launch the attack would be critical since Israel's allies in the West, including the U.S., are opposed to a lengthy military operation.
According to a spokesperson, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is mulling over Israel's offer to contribute a warship to patrol in the Mediterranean, despite a member country Turkey's opposition. However, NATO's interest in the Gulf patrolling is primarily to curb terrorism and related activities and doesn't have much to do with the rising nuclear tensions between Iran and Israel. However, if and when a military strike is initiated, NATO warship's presence in the Mediterranean could be a crucial factor.
Saudi Arabia has expressed concern over Iran's nuclear weapon program almost in the same way as the West. However, Saudi Arabia has made it clear that if Iran does successfully acquire a nuclear weapon, withstanding the war threats, it too will go ahead and get a nuclear weapon.
Iran's leaders consider themselves victims of an undeclared war waged by a Western coalition, of which Saudi Arabia is also a part, while the West fears a Middle Eastern cold war, owing to Saudi Arabia's position in support of the U.S.-Israel alliance.