Reuters: An increased U.S. naval presence in the Gulf is not a response to any action by Iran but a message to all countries that the United States will keep its regional footprint “for a long time”, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday. BAGHDAD (Reuters) – An increased U.S. naval presence in the Gulf is not a response to any action by Iran but a message to all countries that the United States will keep its regional footprint “for a long time”, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said on Friday.
CBS News reported on Monday that a projected naval buildup was intended to discourage what U.S. officials view as increasingly provocative acts by Tehran pressing for a nuclear program and support for Shi’ite militias in Iraq.
“I don’t think it’s a response to anything anyone else has done,” Gates told reporters during a three-day visit to Iraq.
“I think the message that we are sending to everyone, not just Iran, is that the United States is an enduring presence in this part of the world. We have been here for 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,” he said.
The U.S. command responsible for Middle East operations has asked the Pentagon to add a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf region as a warning to Syria and Iran and to help it carry out other operations, according to a senior defense official.
The war-fighting Central Command wants the carrier strike group and its warplanes by end-March for “deterrence” and to increase “flexibility,” including for potential noncombat operations, said the official who asked not be to be named.
Gates on Friday acknowledged the increased U.S. presence in the Gulf.
“There has been an increase in naval strength in the Gulf in the past several weeks,” he said.
But the new defense secretary, who replaced Donald Rumsfeld on Monday, said he did not know if United States would send another carrier to the Gulf.