Nine US military ships enter Persian Gulf Wednesday, assembling off Iran’s coast in largest American naval move since 2003

Debka File
Wednesday, May 23, 2007

They sailed through the Strait of Hormuz by day - according to US Navy officials for training exercises. The vessels carry around 17,000 combat and marine personnel. They include the two aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz and USS Stennis, as well as the USS Bonhomme Richard LHD 6 Group, the world’s biggest amphibious strike force. Iran was not notified of the planned arrival.

DEBKAfile reports the maneuvers take place less than two weeks after Vice President Dick Cheney visited the region and informed Saudi King Abdullah and fellow Gulf rulers that President George W. Bush has determined that if Iran refuses to waive a nuclear weapon capability, the US will attack its nuclear, military and economic infrastructure before he leaves the White House in Jan. 2009.

(This was first disclosed in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 300 on May 11.)

Our sources also note that the US armada sailed into the Gulf on the day the latest UN Security Council ultimatum expired for Iran to give up uranium enrichment or face a fresh set of sanctions.

Its presence backs up Cheney’s pledge and tells the region and Iran that Washington may not be satisfied with sanctions and the military option is alive. Washington is also stiffening its posture ahead of its first direct talks with Tehran on Monday, May 28, when US and Iraqi ambassadors meet in Baghdad. The message to Iran and its ally Syria is that if the Baghdad talks fail, and they refuse to suspend their backing for Iraq’s insurgents and al Qaeda, the US stands ready with a military option.

Tuesday, May 21, a senior US officer in Baghdad accused Iran of orchestrating a summer offensive against US troops in Iraq “linking al Qaeda and Sunni insurgents to its Shiite militia allies.” Our sources add that Iran with Syrian support has also embarked on a summer offensive in other parts of the Middle East, including Lebanon and the Gaza Strip

Rear Admiral Kevin Quinn said maneuvers beginning now are part of a long-planned effort to reassure nearby countries of America’s commitment to regional security. He told reporters before crossing: “There is always the threat of any state or non-state actor deciding to close one of the international straits, and the biggest one is the Strait of Hormuz.”

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