Friday, January 05, 2007
Pentagon will send a second aircraft carrier and its escort ships to the Persian Gulf, defense officials said yesterday, as a warning to Syria and Iran and to give commanders more flexibility in the region. Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Bremerton, Wash.-based USS John C. Stennis strike group would deploy this month. It will put 5,000 more U.S. sailors in the region, bringing the total to 16,000. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier group entered the gulf in December. Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman declined to comment, saying the Defense Department would not discuss future deployments or ship movements.
USS John C. Stennis CVN-74But military analysts said the move was intended to demonstrate U.S. resolve in the face of acts by Iran and Syria that it sees as provocative, such as Tehran's pursuit of its nuclear program. The Stennis had been scheduled to deploy to the Pacific region. But the Pentagon agreed instead to send the carrier group to the gulf after a request from U.S. Central Command, the military command responsible for Middle East operations. Senior defense officials have said that request was aimed at increasing Central Command's flexibility in a variety of operations and providing deterrence in the region. Washington has locked horns with Tehran over the Iranian nuclear program. American defense officials also regularly charge Iran and Syria with fanning sectarian violence in Iraq. The second carrier, while adding relatively few service members to the region, is valuable as a symbol of America's increased presence in the gulf, military analysts said.