DONALD Trump has warned that the US military is “locked and loaded” as the western superpower edges towards a “full-scale war” with Iran.
The Islamic Republic is accused of masterminding attacks that have crippled the world’s largest oil plant in Saudi Arabia.
But despite the assault, claimed by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group, comprising of sophisticated cruise missiles and drones –Iranian military spending is dwarfed by the US.
In fact, US President Trump has supercharged Washington’s annual spend on its armed forces which currently stands at $716 billion (£572bn).
That’s more than the next 10 countries put together – including China and Russia.
In comparison, Iran is estimated to spend around $13bn (£10bn) every year on its armed forces.
But last week’s drone attack has underscored fears raised by US security experts about the rapid evolution of unmanned aircraft, which are relatively cheap to make and are effective.
Notably the drones were able to pierce Saudi Arabia high tech air defences.
But cruise missiles were said to have been used too, which underlines huge advances in Iranian weapons technology.
Unverified images have now emerged on social media seeming to show the debris of an Iranian-made missile in the Saudi desert.
Some analysts said the pictures showed a crashed Soumar missile, Iran’s attempt to reverse-engineer the Soviet-designed KH-55 , several of which the country illegally imported from Ukraine in the early 2000s.
Others identified the wreckage as a Quds 1, a missile similar to the Soumar unveiled by the Houthis in July, the Arms Control Wonk website reported.
Indeed, despite Iran’s miniscule military spend in comparison to the US, its elite Revolutionary Guard force said it was prepared for a “full-scale war”.
The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ aerospace arm, Amirali Hajizadeh, bragged that Iran’s missiles could hit US bases and ships within a range of 1,240 miles.
Meanwhile US President Donald Trump tweeted his military was “locked and loaded”.
Washington also has the upper-hand when it comes to nuclear weapons.
The US, which is the only country to ever use atomic weaponry in warfare, currently has 1,750 nuclear warheads while Iran officially has zero.
And the attack on the oil field in Abqaiq, Bugayg, could lead to a war between sworn enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Randy Larsen, a former professor and department head at the US military’s National War College, told Bloomberg: “This has the potential to be as significant as Pearl Harbour.”
Both nations have been enemies for decades and are fighting a number of proxy wars, including in Yemen where Saudi forces have been fighting against the Iranian backed Houthis for four years.
US and Iran – a troubled history
- Before the 1979 Iranian revolution, Iran was one of America’s biggest allies in the Middle East and was led by the US-backed Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi.
- However, since the seismic revolt, Iran has been led by murderous Islamic fundamentalists and tensions with Washington have remained ever since.
- On November 4, 1979, the Iranian regime took 52 US diplomats hostage in response to President Carter’s administration allowing Iran’s deposed former leader into America.
- The hostage crisis lasted for 444 days and also included a failed rescue mission which cost the lives of eight US soldiers.
- In April 1980, the US ended diplomatic relations with Iran – a break which lasted for more than 30 years.
- In April 1983, Washington blamed the Iranian-funded terror group Hezbollah for carrying out a bombing attack on the American embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.
- The assault, carried out amid a brutal civil war in Lebanon, killed 17 Americans.
- In November of that year, two truck bombs in Beruit killed 241 US peace keepers. The US again blamed Hezbollah for the incident.
- The Clinton White House, in 1995, placed a total embargo on Iran meaning US companies could not trade with the country.
- And in 2002, George W Bush included the Islamic Republic in his famous “Axis of evil” speech along with North Korea and Iraq.
Overall tension in the oil-producing Gulf region has dramatically escalated this year after Trump imposed severe sanctions on Iran aimed at halting its oil exports altogether in a bid to shut down its nuclear weapons programme.
In June Iran’s ruthless Revolutionary Guard was blamed for attacks on two oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman.
Iran seized the British flagged Stena Impero on July 19 shortly after the UK detained a vessel in Gibraltar that was allegedly carrying Iranian crude oil to Syria.
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