With the situation in Iraq stabilizing, this report raises the possibility of a stronger stance with Iran in the not-too-distant future:
That same "Gulf source" had some idea of why they are calling for more fuel, and given that he's said to have been in the oil business quite some time, I tend to think his thoughts are at least worth considering:
LONDON, Nov 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. military has stepped up chartering of tankers and requests for extra fuel in the U.S. Central Command area, which includes the Gulf, shipping and oil industry sources say.
A Gulf oil industry source said the charters suggested there would be high naval activity, possibly including a demonstration to Iran that the U.S. Navy will protect the Strait of Hormuz oil shipping route during tensions over Tehran's nuclear programme.
The U.S. Navy's Military Sealift Command (MSC) has tendered for four tankers in November to move at least one million barrels of jet and ship fuel between Gulf ports, from Asia to the Gulf and to the Diego Garcia base, tenders seen by Reuters show.
It usually tenders for one or two tankers a month to supply Gulf operations, which include missions in Iraq.
The MSC, asked for comment, confirmed the tenders and said there was nothing abnormal about current requirements in the Gulf, where it has a large military presence and which is home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.
A fifth hire request was recently cancelled, it said.
Fuels specified to be moved between Gulf ports include JP5, high flashpoint jet fuel, used to power F18 fighters aboard aircraft carriers.
So, don't be surprised if we see military maneuvers in the next 90 days or so aimed at showing the Iranians how easily we can reach them, or anything between that and a full-scale invasion.
One of the largest commercial tanker hires is on a time-charter basis, the length of time a ship is sought, stipulating a period of 90 days to carry a range of fuels between locations in the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman.
The time charter, which begins in early December and allows for multiple journeys in Gulf waters, is to carry a minimum of 310,000 barrels of jet and marine fuel, some of it JP5.
"What's most interesting is the time-charter in the Gulf. It's a big ship and here we have a commitment for a lot of movement of fuels, backwards and forwards down to the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman," the Gulf source said.
"This confirms there is going to be a lot of activity, possibly a serious demonstration to Iran that the military means to protect the Hormuz Strait," he said.
He pointed out that Saudi Arabia had already promised U.S. forces long-term fuel supplies this year, known as term tenders.
In February, oil industry sources told Reuters Riyadh had raised the amount of jet fuel earmarked for the military from 1.5 million barrels last year to close to eight million in 2007.
And don't be surprised if the lefties howl bloody murder if and when it happens.