Warships from US, British and French naval forces have proceeded through the Strait of Hormuz, coinciding with Iranian threats to block the channel.
The fleet is being led by the US carrier Abraham Lincoln, equipped with 90 fighter aircraft, while other ships involved in the action include the Royal Navy Type 23 frigate HMS Argyll, as well as one guided-missile cruiser and two destroyers from the US Navy. One French warship completed the armada, which has been scrambled to the Strait of Hormuz after Iran threatened to block the channel in retaliation for a string of oil sanctions placed upon the country.
The presence of the armada within the channel provides western governments with several strike options should Iran retaliate against the sanctions. The EU-imposed sanctions allow Iran to honour export contracts until 1 July 2012, but any further exports have been prohibited. The highly unusual move has been defended by western officials, with the goal of the mission stated as a demonstration of "international resolve" against Iran's persistence with its nuclear programme.
Iran, which earlier this month conducted a naval exercise in the Strait of Hormuz, has threatened to oppose any movement within its waters with "full force", with general Ataollah Salehi adding: "We don't have the intention of repeating our warning, and we warn only once."