With Iran playing strange games and threatening to kill Americans and sink American ships, it is very strange that the U.S. Navy is reducing its aircraft carrier presence in the Persian Gulf. According to the Obama administration, it coincides with making a “nuclear deal” with Iran.
My guess is that Iran will use this to say they forced the US to withdraw from the Gulf.
Although the Navy naturally denies any reduction of firepower, records show that the U.S.S. Harry Truman, now the sole aircraft carrier in the region, has spent more time outside the Persian Gulf in the last six months than inside it.
So currently, the USS Truman is the only “24/7” carrier in the Persian Gulf, a vital waterway for world shipments of oil from the Middle East, that have been threatened by Iran on a number of occasions.
As recently as a year ago, the U.S. Navy had two carriers in the area of the Persian Gulf, and that was definitely a strong message.
Retired Vice Adm. Peter Daly, CEO of the United States Naval Institute, said he thought is was “reasonable” that the Navy send a signal by limiting the Truman’s time in the Gulf.
“A carrier is an effective symbol and instrument of national power. Its mere presence is deterrence to bad actors and bad behavior, and if necessary, it is an instrument of force. That’s true in the Gulf and that’s true anywhere in the world.” – Retired Vice Adm. Peter Daly
This action coincides with the U.S. attempting to finalize a nuclear deal with Iran, after reaching an interim accord in November.
There are many layers to an agreement such as this, and Congress is still debating whether to threaten Iran with additional sanctions should they fail to keep their end of the deal. In this deal, sanctions on Iran have been relaxed, in exchange for Iran’s commitment to halt important elements of their nuclear program.
From out here, it seems like a good deal for Iran, and they have more upside than anyone else. If we were playing tennins, I’d say “Advantage Iran.”
Others have researched the issue of moving the carrier around, and The Hill recently looked at the length of time individual carriers spent in the Gulf. They said that from August 2013 to January 2014, the Truman spent 101 days inside the Gulf of Oman and the North Arabian Sea, with only 45 days inside the Persian Gulf, not including approximately 11 days spent transiting between or in unknown locations.
Looking at the available information, it is difficult to determine precisely the number of days that carriers spent in the Gulf during 2011 and 2012. It is known that at least one of the two carriers was devoted to keeping the Strait of Hormuz open.
The U.S. 5th Fleet, headquartered in Bahrain added three coastal patrol boats last summer on the Persian Gulf. A report in the Times of Israel said the U.S. planned to have 10 of those ships in the Gulf by early 2014.
Last weekend Iran sent what they described as two “warships” – actually frigates – toward the Atlantic Coast in response to the U.S. presence in the Gulf. Than, on Sunday, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy Commander Ali Fadavi warned anyone listening that his country would sink a U.S. aircraft carrier if the U.S. used any force against Iran.
Plenty of people were listening, but U.S. Navy officials dismiss Iran’s bellicose rhetoric, saying Fadavi’s threats are considered “domestic propaganda.” They also argue Iran lacks the ability to even reach the Atlantic Coast.
While there is little risk that Iran’s weak fleet could hurt the U.S. fleet, Iran is very good at diverting attention from the things we should all care about – Iran making a nuclear weapon.