The US is an enduring presence in this part of the world, said US defense secretary Robert Gates Friday referring to the US naval Gulf buildup
“We have been here a long time, we will be here for a long time and everybody needs to remember that, both our friends and those who might consider themselves our adversaries.”
Thursday, the US Central Command was disclosed to have put in a request for another carrier in Gulf region as a warning to Syria and Iran. debkafile‘s military sources report that this request is the first in four years tied specifically to a deterrent for Syria and Iran. Our Washington sources interpret the publication of Gen. Abizaid’s request during the visit to Iraq of the new defense secretary Robert Gates’ and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace as indicating that the Bush administration is heading for a major operation against the two key threats to Iraq’s stability: the Sunni insurgents supported by Syria and the Shiite militias, which receive arms, intelligence and funding from Tehran.
In its latest quarterly report, the defense department accused Iran and Syria of undermining the Iraqi government by providing both active and passive support to anti-government and anti-coalition forces.
The application to deploy a third carrier in the Gulf in late March 2007 is a pointer to the projected timeline of this operation. It will confront Tehran and Damascus with the option of direct intervention to rescue their Iraqi allies, or standing aside. President George W. Bush is officially reported to have not yet decided on the coming steps in Iraq. However the central command’s application for another carrier suggests that the decision is more or less final.
The carrier Eisenhower and its strike group are already in the Gulf region accompanied by guided missile destroyers and the nuclear assault submarine USS Newport, as is the USS Boxer Strike Group.
Another sign of an impending US operation came from Gates’ talks with US generals and soldiers Wednesday. Whereas the soldiers did not propose a pull-out from Iraq and urged him to send reinforcements, the generals argued against a surge. Their reluctance stems from the fear that more manpower will result in a higher casualty score. The generals also calculate that in a withdrawal from the country, the bigger the force the more cumbersome and sluggish the evacuation.
US troops on the other hand explained to the new defense secretary that with a heavier US presence on the ground, the insurgents could be held off long enough to train the Iraqi army. They said training Iraqis is a challenge because of their sectarian ties to militias – police officers more than army personnel.
Gates is due to meet Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki Thursday, Dec. 21.