War on Terror Special report 24.11.05
Iran Warned Again
The UK's Secretary of State for Defence warned Iran not to meddle in Iraq during a Pentagon press conference.
In what was only the latest of series of warnings from US and British officials, Defence Minster Dr John Reid said: "It is our belief that the nature of the devices being used against British troops and possibly elsewhere in Iraq in recent months bear the hallmark of groups like Hezbollah and may well be connected with elements within Iran."
The British minister said his government had informed the Iranians about its concerns that Iran-based groups may be committing acts of terrorism against British forces in Iraq.
"We hope that anyone on the borders with Iraq - whether it is Syria, Iran or anyone else - will desist and make sure that no one is supporting terrorism inside Iraq or, indeed, anywhere else."
Dr Reid's warning came just a few days after the head of British forces in Iraq, Royal Marines Major General Jim Dutton, issued his own caution to Iran.
During a video news conference from his headquarters in southern Iraq, where he heads an HQ staffed largely by UK marines and staff from the Royal Navy, Major General Dutton said that the technology for explosive devices that have claimed the lives of soldiers under his command is coming from Iran. He also said: "I think the technology certainly, and probably the equipment is certainly coming through there. I simply don't know whether this is Iranian government policy or whether this is simply groups who are using Iran for their own purposes and not being controlled. I'm simply not qualified, and I don't have the knowledge. I wish I had. It would answer a lot of questions for us. But I think we don't know whether this is official Iranian policy."
For a full report on Major General Dutton's briefing to reporters, see the forthcoming January 2006 edition of WARSHIPS IFR.
US Marines On The Offensive Near Syrian Border
Meanwhile, the US Marines have been conducting aggressive operations close to the border of Syria, which is also a source of insurgency problems for the Coalition. American Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that Operation Steel Curtain, which was launched in mid-November, had resulted in suspected insurgents being captured and killed. He added that enemy weapons caches were being found thanks to the help of local Iraqis.
It took American and Iraqi forces four days of fighting to secure the town of Husaybah. US Marine Corps Colonel Stephen W. Davis said: "Right now we are not getting any reports of resistance within the city, although pockets of fighters may reappear." The offensive involved more than 2,000 US marines and around 1,000 Iraqi troops, and their objective was to neutralise a city regarded as a main avenue for access to Iraq by foreign insurgents based in Syria. Operation Steel Curtain was only the latest in a series of offensives designed to harass and destroy insurgents coming across Iraq's porous borders from Jordan as well as Syria. With Iraqi elections due on December 15, the big push to underpin security was seen as essential.
For more on US Marine Corps operations in Iraq see WARSHIPS IFR magazine.
Pirates Attack Cruise Liner
American naval Explosive Ordnance Disposal experts went aboard the cruise liner Seabourn Spirit, after the ship was subjected to an unsuccessful assault by pirates off the coast of Somalia. The EOD specialists removed the unexploded remains of a Rocket-Propelled Grenade from the liner's hull. Lieutenant John Stewart USN and his EOD team were transported via a Seychelles Port Authority pilot boat out to Seaborn Spirit early on the morning of November 7. "Upon boarding the ship we verified that the ship had set the proper hazardous exclusion zone from the suspected Unexploded Ordnance," said Lt Stewart. "We then made sure that the remnants of the RPG were no longer hazardous to the ship or the passengers."
The assault on the liner is only the latest incident of piracy off the coast of East Africa.
For more see the forthcoming January 2006 edition of WARSHIPS IFR magazine.
But Coalition Navies Snuff Out Terrorist Presence In Gulf
The overall commander of Coalition naval forces in the Gulf, Vice Admiral David Nichols of the US Navy says he believes terrorists are steering clear of the region's maritime environment. Admiral Nichols explains that one of the main missions of the 45 ships under his command inside, and just outside the Gulf, is to deny access to the area to terrorists and the effort appears to be succeeding: "As far as the movement of drugs and people, a year ago we were quite frequently finding major drug shipments. Now we're not in the counter-narcotics business, however, there is an indirect relationship between drugs and the drug business in this region and terrorism.
"But we haven't found much at sea lately, nor have we found many foreign fighters at sea lately. Our intelligence indicates that the smugglers and the terrorists know that we're out there paying close attention."
Admiral Nichols said one indication of reduced insurgent activity in the area is that there have been no attempts to attack oil platforms in the Gulf since April of 2004.
Admiral Nichols' force is mainly American, but also includes ships from Britain, France, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan and the Coalition's newest member, Pakistan. Forces from Canada, the Netherlands and Singapore are expected to join the effort soon.
Australians Transfer Command In Gulf
The US Navy's Captain Hank Miranda has taken over from the Royal Australian Navy's Captain Stu Mayer as Commander Task Group 58.1 (CTG 58.1), which is the sub-grouping charged with the key role of safeguarding maritime security in the northern Gulf. "The mission of CTG 58.1 is first and foremost the defence of the Al Basra (ABOT) and Khawr Al Amaya (KAAOT) oil terminals," explained Miranda on assuming command during a hand-over ceremony in Bahrain. "These two oil platforms represent the number one offload area of Iraqi oil to the rest of the world. This is were they generate most of the country's income."
In addition to defence of the ABOT and KAAOT platforms, CTG 58.1 is also tasked with training the Iraqi Navy and the new Iraqi Marine Corps, so they can one day provide security for the platforms themselves.
In maintaining strong bonds for inter-operability, Captain Miranda is a strong advocate of frequent sailor exchanges between US, British and Australian fleets.
As Captain Miranda assumed command CTG 58.1 was composed of the Australian frigate HMAS Newcastle (06), Royal Navy frigate HMS Campbeltown (F 86), along with the guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90), four US Navy patrol coastal ships, and several US Coast Guard patrol boats. HMAS Newcastle is now embarked on her third tour of the Gulf, which she commenced in May 2005 after taking over from sister ship HMAS Darwin (04). Commodore Steve Gilmore of the RAN recently returned home following his own overall command of Coalition naval forces in the northern Gulf, a task he handed over to Rear Admiral Peter Daly, USN. He had been the first Australian Coalition commander to lead an operational combined task group of such size or composition since WW2. His 14 strong RAN command team was initially embarked in the American cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) and then transferred to her sister ship USS Normandy (CG 60) in April.
Roosevelt Weighs In On The Ground
The USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) passed through the Suez Canal in late September as she headed toward the Gulf where she now provides heavyweight firepower support for the Coalition force in Iraq. Aircraft from the carrier's embarked air wing have carried out strikes in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom while protecting Coalition ground troops. F-14 Tomcats from Fighter Squadron (VF) 31 conducted precision strikes on a known Improvised Explosive Device (IED) production facility northeast of Baghdad. Meanwhile, ships in the Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (CSG) have been conducting Maritime Security Operations in the Gulf. For example, the destroyers USS Oscar Austin and USS Donald Cook have been busy in the northern Gulf providing protection in Iraqi territorial waters particularly for two major oil terminals, the Al Basrah and Khawr Al Amaya (KAAOT).
Campbeltown Back In The Gulf
Having pulled a previous tour of duty in the Gulf at the end of 2004, the British frigate HMS Campbeltown was once more on station in Arabian waters as 2005 drew to a close. The Type 22 warship was tasked with working alongside other Coalition forces to secure the two major Iraqi oil terminals.
Campbeltown has also been acting as a platform for training Iraqi naval officers. As the northern Gulf is a high-threat area, she has been in Defence Watches, ever alert for potential terrorist attack. The frigate is due back at her home base of Devonport in December.
Text based on material supplied by US Department of Defense, UK MoD and Australian defence ministry.