Iran has placed 6,000 troops and chemical weapons near the Strait of Hormuz as part of a "very substantial buildup" of military force, Defense Secretary William J. Perry said Wednesday.
"It's a deployment of force beyond any reasonable defensive requirement and can only be regarded as a threat to shipping in the area," Perry said in Bahrain just before flying to this federation of emirates near the strategic entry to the Persian Gulf.
Perry has been warning repeatedly in recent days of Iran's military buildup near the shallow waterway, but he had not disclosed before that chemical weapons were included in the mass of arms.
Perry did not say what type of chemical weapons the Iranians had, nor did he disclose their suspected delivery system.
While chemical weapons would not be thought of as the weapon of choice against shipping, compared to mines, the mere threat of their use could be intimidating.
But Iran's ambassador to the United Nations, Kamal Kharrazi, denied Perry's assertion. "It is basically nonsense in terms of military . . . sense to deploy chemical weapons on the islands. What's the use of it?" he told ABC News in New York.
Iran and the United Arab Emirates have conflicting claims to three islands near where the buildup has taken place.
Perry is on a six-day tour of the Gulf region in an attempt to bolster defensive forces there.