According to a recent New York Times article, the US has been steadily building up military first strike forces in the Persian Gulf region over the past few months. These include the buildup of strike aircraft in bases in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, as well as an increased naval presence in the Guld region. An Amphibious Assault Ship, the Ponce, has also been deployed to the region to serve as a possible command and control vessel for an assault on Iran.
An analysis of the Navel positions of the current American Pacific and Atlantic fleets show a disturbing trend
Based on the above, the US already has two aircraft carrier battle groups and an Amphibious Warfare Ship operating in the region of Iran. From both the East and West coasts of the US however, there are three carrier battlegroups and three amphibious warfare ships on the move. Their ultimate destination is unknown, however their current course could take them into striking distance of Iran.
The possibility of war with Iran is still not a probability however, as the US seems to be attempting to strongarm Iran more than provoke a war. The US wants to have the advantage in the region in case conflict breaks out, and thus is building up their military capacity in the area. A strike on Iran has always been kept on the table by the US government, however such a strike in the next few months is unlikely.
President Obama has an election battle to fight in the latter half of 2012, and thus is unlikely to greenlight a potentially unpopular war before the election period. Iran on the other hand is eager to rise to the American pressure by appearing tough through military exercises in the region. However, in reality, Iran does not want a war with America, which it would surely lose.
The strategic goal in any conflict would be the Strait of Homuz however. Whoever controls the Strait between Iran and the UAE will control much of the flow of Saudi Arabian oil to the US and China. In the event of hostilities, Iran would be likely to attempt to close the strait to hurt the US. In addition, other pipeline options from Saudi Arabia go north along the Syrian border and into Turkey. In the event of a conflict, the Iranian allied Syria would likely be tempted to attempt to sabotage the oil pipeline going north to further weaken US interests in the region.
Thus, both powers are facing off at the moment, with neither side wanting to make the first move. Israel is the unknown variable in this equation however, and is unpredictable in its relations with Iran. The nightmare scenario is an Israeli attack on Iran which results in a regional war between Syria and Iran and Israel and America.
The buildup of American arms in the region is also potentially about to spark a new arms race in the Middle East. With Saudi Arabia attempting to become the regional superpower, it is currently embarking on a military expansion through the purchase of Pakistani missiles which could deliver a warhead to any major city in the Middle East, including Tehran. As Saudi Arabia expands its military, other regional countries will feel compelled to level the balance of power by increasing their own military capacity.
In summary, a war with Iran would be very ill-advised given the current climate and position of the US. Any strike will result in all the issues of Iraq, and many times over.
We will keep on monitoring the situation and report any changes as they come in.