Iran provokes showdown, warns US carrier not to return to Persian Gulf
In another heated escalation over the strategic Strait of Hormuz, Iran Tuesday, Jan. 3, threatened to take action if the US aircraft carrier which "moved to the Sea of Oman because of our drill returns to the Persian Gulf." Army chief Lt. Gen. Ataolla Salehi said:" Iran will not repeat this warning."
He referred to the USS Stennis as "the enemy's carrier," which "I recommend and emphasize… not return to the Persian Gulf." He avoided naming the US vessel or the details of action Iran might take if it returned.
debkafile's military sources report that the Stennis transited the Strait of Hormus Wednesday, Dec. 28 and entered the Sea of Oman where Iran was staging a naval drill. Washington was demonstrating freedom of navigation in the international strait through which one-fifth of the worlds exported oil is shipped and underlining Iran's inability to close it to merchant shipping and US warships.
Iran said that its surveillance aircraft and warships tracked and filmed the US carrier's movements in and around Hormuz which it claims to fully control.
Saturday, Dec. 31, Iran announced a long-range missile test-fire would take place over the strait, thereby causing a five-hour stoppage of shipping traffic. Later, an Iranian general said the missile test was delayed. debkafile's Iranian and military sources reported that this was a trick to prove Iran capable of closing the Strait of Hormuz in defiance of strong warnings from Washington.
Monday, Jan. 2, the Iranian navy marked the last day of its Hormuz drill by testing shore-to-sea Qader and Nour missiles. The Qader is described by the Iranians as a cruise missile capable of destroying large American air carriers with a single hit.
Tuesday, this claim proved to be the prologue in advance of Iran's virtual closure of the Strait of Hormuz against the return of the USS Stennis into the Persian Gulf and appropriation of its "right" to open and close the waterway at will.
It is hard to see the Obama administration caving in to Tehran's ultimate challenge to the freedom of this vital international waterway. The Stennis or some other American naval vessel must soon be sent through the Strait of Hormuz to test Iran's assumption of control.
Gen. Salehi said: "We are not seeking to act irrationally, but are ready to confront any threat." Another Iranian commander said that Iran's Revolutionary Guards are preparing another military exercise in the Persian Gulf. He did not offer a date.
Our military sources add that two more American warships, the USS Bataan and USS Makin Island, are cruising in the area. They are small Marine Corps amphibian craft carrying jets and helicopters. The big air craft carrier USS Carl Vinson, deployed in the Pacific from the third week of December, is on standby to advance to waters opposite Iran in an emergency.