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Target Iran - Blockade

On May 31, 2003 President Bush announced the establishment of the Proliferation Security Initiative, also known as the Madrid Initative, which would result in the creation of international agreements allowing the US and its allies to search ships transporting illicit weapons, missile technology, and suspect cargo. The Madrid Initiative would also allow the U.S. and its allies to search suspect planes. Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Australia endorsed it. The Proliferation Security Initiative reflects the international support for an active approach to prevent global proliferation, most especially in rouge states like Iran and North Korea.

Under the Proliferation Security Initiative, a multinational blockade would be enacted in the Persian Gulf, similar to the current naval blockade of North Korea would prevent nations who have previously shipped illicit materials into the country. In order to jump-start the Proliferation Security initiative, the US has begun work with its allies to expand and improve its ability to stop illegal transfers.

The December 2002 seizure of a North Korean shipment of missile parts to Yemen is a model for future operations. Using intelligence assets the United States monitored a vessel that departed North Korea and headed for the Persian Gulf with a Spanish vessel intercepting it while it was off the Arabian Peninsula.

The United States and allied countries have had a substantial naval presence in the Persian Gulf region for several decades and are experienced in conducting Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO).

At any given time the United States usually has one carrier strike group and an amphibious ready group present in the region in addition to other assets and allied vessels that are conducting routine exercises and MIO.

Provided that the United States maintains the sane general force presence the United States could have at least 20 vessels available to enforce a blockade or to intecept suspect vessels.

However, a recent increase in cargo flights between Iran and North Korea highlight the loopholes inherent in any blockade regime. Direct flights between Tehran and Pongyang previously numbered only two per year. Between April and June 2003 there were six direct flights between the two cities alone. The ability to fly directly to and from the two countries would certainly inhibit US options as the prefered method of boarding aircraft occurs when an aircraft is grounded when it stops at an airport and is refueled. Unless thwe United States and its allies adopt a more aggressive strategy direct flights may be immune to coalition inspections.



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