Over 15,000 naval personnel from four countries are participating in a Joint Task Force Exercise dubbed "Operation Brimstone", that is underay in North Carolina and off the eastern U.S. coast from Virginia to Florida. The nine day exercise began Monday and includes forces from France, Brazil and the United Kingdom.
Senior American naval commanders said the exercise is a tremendous opportunity to train with coalition partners and will flex warfighting capabilities from the operational level through expeditionary strike forces and group operations.
The large exercise comes barely a month after the Israeli air force conducted a massive exercise in the Mediterranean reportedly a rehearsal for a military strike on Iran's nuclear sites.
The exercise comes at a time the six world powers gave Iran yet another ultimatum of two weeks to suspend its uranium enrichment program.
The Debka website reports that a partial blockade of Iran’s shores, a key element of the new sanctions, would be limited to withholding from Iran supplies of benzene and other refined oil products - not foodstuffs or other commodities. Short of refining capacity, Iran has to import 40 percent of its benzene consumption and will be forced to react to the stoppage.
Operation Brimstone the website says boasts two striking features. For the first time units of the US Navy Expeditionary Combat command who are trained to operate in shallow coastal waters similar to those off the Perisan Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz where Iranian Revolutionary Guards are stationed on islands near the strait. The international force will have to control the islands to ensure oil shipping freed passage out to world markets.
In addition the French Rafale fighter jets will share space with US warplanes, while the only French carrier Charles de Gaulle undergoes maintenance. Also participating in the exercise are the Theodore Roosevelt carrier strike group and the Iwo Jima expeditionary strike group, both of which are expected to deploy to the Middle East in coming months. 07/22/08