WASHINGTON - Iran and the United States on Tuesday underlined their military readiness for conflict should faltering diplomacy over Tehran’s atomic activities fail, as tensions rose over tougher Western sanctions. Iran said it successfully fired several dozen missiles — including a medium-range Shahab-3 ballistic weapon with a range capable of striking Israel — in war games in its central desert region designed to show its capacity for counter-attack. The United States has moved new forces into the Gulf to keep strategic waterways open and strike deep within Iran in the event of a regional military escalation, the New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Times cited senior officials as saying the quiet build-up was aimed at reassuring Israel that Washington is serious about addressing Iran’s nuclear program and keeping the Straits of Hormuz — a key oil choke point — open. “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.” Some 120 lawmakers in Iran’s 290-seat parliament have also signed on to a draft bill calling for the strategic Strait of Hormuz at the entrance to the oil-rich Gulf to be closed to oil tankers headed to Europe in retaliation for an EU embargo on Iranian crude that came into effect on Sunday. US President Barack Obama has sought to roll back Iran’s nuclear program though diplomatic means — ramping up sanctions to unprecedented levels in recent months — while not ruling out a military strike.