Iranian troops in gulf anticipate U.S. strike Alleged role in Saudi attack sparks fears of retaliation

December 26, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

WASHINGTON -- Iranian troops deployed in and along the Persian Gulf have gone on high alert in anticipation of a U.S. military strike, retaliating for Iran's alleged role in the June bombing of American troops in Saudi Arabia, according to U.S. officials.

The move is part of a "concerted Iranian effort" in recent days to try to control the damage from a Saudi-led campaign to finger Iran for the terrorist bombing that killed 19 U.S. troops at Dhahran's Khobar military housing complex, a senior Pentagon official said Tuesday.

Since the weekend, Iran's navy has been put on alert, as have troops based on disputed Abu Musa and Tunbs islands near the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the gulf's oil exports pass, the sources added.

"They seem to be very spun up," a senior administration official said. "We assume they're trying to put out an exculpatory set of statements pre-emptively" to lessen the damage of open public accusations and to prevent American retaliation.

Saudi officials have been hinting for weeks that a final report on the Khobar bombing, naming specific suspects and their sponsors, is imminent. And Pentagon sources have said contingency plans for strikes against Iranian military targets have been formulated in the event an Iranian link is proved.

Both U.S. and Saudi investigators have tentatively concluded that Shiite Muslim extremists were behind the second of two attacks on U.S. military targets over the past 13 months that have killed 25 Americans.

Pub Date: 12/26/96

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