In Advance of Iran Talks, U.S. Carriers Pull Back from Gulf
The Navy insists it hasn't strategically reduced its strength there as talks with Iran move ahead. By Global Security Newswire
U.S. aircraft carriers are spending less time in the Persian Gulf as Washington and its partners pursue nuclear negotiations with Iran, The Hill reports.
A pair of U.S. aircraft carriers were in the area 12 months ago, but the USS Harry S. Truman is the only such ship assigned there at present, the news publication said on Thursday. Open-source data suggests the ship has been out of the Persian Gulf for most of the past half-year: 101 days in neighboring waters, and just 45 inside the Persian Gulf bordering Iran.
The Navy claims it has not strategically reduced its strength there with an eye toward the ongoing diplomatic engagement. But an informed U.S. Navy-watcher said it makes sense to link the warships' movement away from Iran to an international effort to resolve disputes over the nation's nuclear program. The United States and five other nations are pursuing a potential arrangement to back up Iran's assurances that its nuclear program is not directed toward development of a nuclear-arms capability. The next round of talks is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
"A carrier is an effective symbol and instrument of national power. Its mere presence is a deterrence to bad actors and bad behavior, and if necessary, it is an instrument of force," said Peter Daly, a former Navy vice admiral and head of the independent U.S. Naval Institute. "That’s true in the Gulf and that’s true anywhere in the world."
The Defense Department said the deployment of additional lighter vessels to the Persian Gulf has helped to compensate for the reduction in time that aircraft carriers are spending there.
Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said "there has been no diminished focus or effort with respect to the Arabian Gulf."
Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency on Thursday said Iran's unrefined petroleum sales increased by 100,000 barrels last month, the New York Times reported. The Paris-based organization's finding is a hint of possible early economic benefits that Iran is gleaning from an interim atomic accord it reached in November with the five permanent U.N. Security Council member nations and Germany, according to the newspaper.