Reuters: The largest U.S. military flotilla to enter the Gulf since the 2003 Iraq war has begun winding up two weeks of war drills off Iran’s coast, the navy said on Wednesday. By Mohammed Abbas
ABOARD USS NIMITZ, June 6 (Reuters) – The largest U.S. military flotilla to enter the Gulf since the 2003 Iraq war has begun winding up two weeks of war drills off Iran’s coast, the navy said on Wednesday.
The U.S. show of strength began last month with a dramatic daytime crossing of ships through the Strait of Hormuz, a major channel for oil shipments from the Gulf, raising pressure on the Islamic Republic and pushing up world oil prices.
Rear Admiral John Blake, commander of the Nimitz aircraft carrier strike group, said the move was meant to reassure allies that the United States was committed to stability in a region that faced several threats, including from Iran’s nuclear programme, and the prospect of violence in Iraq and Afghanistan spilling across borders.
“You’ve got a chokepoint here … many nations are concerned about it because that is the principle route that their petroleum products take,” he told Reuters, adding that the exercises, which included anti-aircraft, surface and submarine drills, would end within days.
The U.S. accuses Iran of trying to develop atomic weapons, but Iran insists its nuclear programme is aimed at producing electricity.
Two rounds of U.N. sanctions on Iran since December for failing to stop sensitive atomic work, and the possibility of more after a meeting of G8 foreign ministers ends on Thursday, have increased pressure on Iran and raised regional tensions.
The nine U.S. warships, including two aircraft carriers carrying some 140 aircraft, are now patrolling waters as close as 35 miles to Iran’s coast.
Iran has dismissed the U.S. naval war games on its doorstep as a morale boosting exercise for American soldiers.