On Sept. 28, the day the U.S. Senate approved the Military Commissions Act, the Daily Press of Newport News, VA, reported the imminent departure of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, consisting of the USS Eisenhower, a Nimitz-class supercarrier that has just spent four years (and $2.5 billion) on a complex overhaul and "upgrade," along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason, one of the most technologically advanced destroyers ever constructed, and the fast-attack submarine USS Newport News.[1]  --  The strike group will soon join an armada already in the Arabian Sea consisting of the USS Enterprise, the cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, the destroyer USS McFaul, the frigate USS Nicholas, and the attack submarine USS Alexandria.  --  The carrier strike group headed out on Oct. 3.[2]  --  An article published that day in Navy News frankly discussed the possibility that the carrier group will join an attack on Iran as one that "some experts and pundits regard as inevitable," reporter William McMichael wrote.[3]  --  One informed observer (Alex Harrowell), writing Tuesday on the European "citizen media" web site Agorovox, dismissed the likelihood of an attack on Iran.[4]  --  But Chris Hedges fully credited the possibility of war in a dire piece published Monday on the Truthdig web site.[5]  --  "[C]ivilian planners are barreling us towards a crisis of epic proportions," he warned, saying that "War with Iran -- a war that would unleash an apocalyptic scenario in the Middle East -- is probable by the end of the Bush administration.  It could begin in as little as three weeks."  --  Hedges, a well-known writer and former New York Times journalist who attracted a standing room only crowd when he spoke in Tacoma in October 2005, concluded:  "[T]hese may be some of the last few weeks or months in which to enjoy what is left of our beleaguered, dying republic and way of life."  --  On Wednesday, the Italian news agency AKI reported Wednesday that the supreme leader of Iran held an emergency meeting at which the carrier strike group's approach was discussed.[6] ...


Local News


** The aircraft carrier battle group is scheduled to sail Tuesday from Norfolk to relieve the USS Enterprise. **

Daily Press (Newport News, VA)
September 28, 2006


NORFOLK -- The aircraft carrier Eisenhower, fresh from refueling and overhaul at Northrop Grumman Newport News, sails Tuesday from Norfolk to relieve the USS Enterprise in the Middle East.

Commanded by Rear Adm. Allen G. Myers, the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group also includes the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, guided-missile destroyer USS Mason and the fast-attack submarine USS Newport News.

All have their home port in Norfolk.

There are about 6,500 sailors in the group.

The Enterprise left Norfolk on May 2, along with the cruiser USS Leyte Gulf, the destroyer USS McFaul, the frigate USS Nicholas and the attack submarine USS Alexandria.

Since deploying, the Enterprise has launched strikes against targets in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Planes based at Naval Air Station Oceana and with the carrier recently have been flying missions against Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan.

The Eisenhower went into Northrop Grumman Newport News in May 2001 for almost four years. It has since completed training exercises in anticipation of this deployment.


South of the James


Daily Press (Newport News, VA)
October 4, 2006


NAVAL STATION NORFOLK -- Fresh gray paint and a good scrubbing left her looking good.

Really good, several Navy family members commented Tuesday morning as they waited on a pier at Naval Station Norfolk, staring at the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower towering above them.

The Ike, as the aircraft carrier is called, headed out Tuesday with its strike group, bound for the Middle East.

The deployment was routine, in that the nearly 6,500 sailors in the Norfolk-based strike group -- which includes the USS Anzio, a guided-missile cruiser; the Ramage and Mason, guided-missile destroyers; and the Newport News, a fast attack submarine -- were scheduled to enter the rotation of carrier groups operating in international waters for about six-month intervals.

It was unique in that it was the Ike's first deployment in six years, making it the only carrier from Hampton Roads to not have taken part yet in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

After its 2000 deployment helping enforce no-fly zones over Bosnia and Iraq, the Ike pulled into the Northrop Grumman Newport News shipyard where, over the course of four years, it received its midlife refueling and overhaul.

Essentially, the work added 25 years to the life of the ship, which was launched in 1975.

It also included technology upgrades. In the original air traffic control room, for example, Plexiglas boards and grease pencils were used to track the location of the ship's fighter jets.

Sailors now track the ship's planes on flat-screen TVs. The information can be viewed almost anywhere on board.

Work on the Ike was completed in March 2005, nearly a year later than planned and $134 million more than the $2.46 billion estimate.

It has spent the last year training and preparing for this deployment.

"The crew is very excited," said the strike group's commander, Rear Adm. Allen G. Myers. "We're taking to sea the highest-equipped, best-trained, and most-motivated crew."

This will be the first deployment for about 70 percent of the sailors, Myers said.

Capt. Dan Cloyd, the skipper, couldn't say Tuesday what the carrier's mission would be. "But we're looking forward to whatever we can do to make a difference."

As Myers pointed out, that might be providing maritime security by simply being there. Aircraft carriers bring such a huge presence, they don't always have to drop bombs to be effective, he said.


By William McMichael

Navy Times
October 3, 2006


NORFOLK NAVAL STATION, Va. -- With a deafening single blast from its whistle, the shore-bound well-wishers began waving, a little boy called out, “Bye, Dad,” and four tugboats began easing the huge gray aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower away from Norfolk Naval Station’s pier 14.

Ike was off on a gloriously clear Tuesday morning for points east -- the Mediterranean and, likely, the greater Persian Gulf region. Following on, in short order, were the other members of its carrier strike group: the destroyers Ramage and Mason and the cruiser Anzio. The attack submarine Newport News left in mid-afternoon, at about the same time Carrier Air Wing 7 was scheduled to begin flying aboard, officials said.

The latter four warships were likely “bristling with Tomahawks,” as a Sept. 21 story in the Nation reported -- neglecting to note that all cruisers, destroyers, and submarines deploy armed with the standard weapons.

But the story’s premise -- that the “bristling” group is headed off to the gulf in order to take part in a strike against Iranian nuclear facilities -- reflects what some experts and pundits regard as inevitable, given the intense war of words between the two nations.

President Bush believes Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and, on Oct. 1, signed legislation imposing mandatory sanctions on those who provide goods or services for what is described as Iran’s chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons programs. The administration continues to work with the United Nations to craft multilateral sanctions against Iran.

Yet in a Sept. 19 speech at the U.N., Bush condemned the Iranian pursuit and said Iran “must abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.” Bush has also said, as he reiterated during a September interview on the "Today" show, that the U.S. has “all options on the table” with regard to Iran.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad believes Iran has the right to develop nuclear power and told the United Nations that same day that its activities are “transparent” and “peaceful.”

A Sept. 25 Time magazine article that studied the possibility of war with Iran -- and reported that Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen recently requested a review of plans to blockade two Iranian ports, a report the Navy did not deny outright -- was taken seriously enough to be introduced into the record of a Sept. 26 congressional hearing held by the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats, and International Relations.

Ike group officials preparing to deploy Tuesday, however, were having no part of any talk about an attack on Iran.

“Our mission is to provide forward presence,” said Rear Adm. Allen G. Myers, the Ike group’s commander. “And we’re taking our place in the rotation as part of the Fleet Response Plan . . . [which] gives our Navy the opportunity to provide effective and responsive maritime presence around the globe.” He said the group would deploy to both the Mediterranean and Middle East areas. “And we expect, like the [now-deployed carrier] Enterprise, to be operating at sea, in international waters, with many nations,” he said.

Pressed further on the possibility of action in Iran, Myers replied, “I think it would be irresponsible to speculate. And that’s not what we’re planning for. We’re planning to provide maritime security operations around the globe.” Myers also said there was “no ban” on sending Ike into the gulf. Analysts of military affairs say if the carrier were to launch air strikes off the Iranian coast, it would face the possibility of being targeted by Iranian anti-ship missiles.

For family members gathered on the pier Tuesday, world affairs didn’t seem to be much in play, with few expressing concern about the deployment. Those who did seemed mostly to be what the veteran family members called “unseasoned” spouses whose sailors were deploying for the first time. The veterans all seemed to take it in stride.

“They’ve been out doing their training and I think they’re going to be ready for it,” said Ashley Brown, 21, wife of Operations Specialist 2nd Class Christopher Brown, their two young children in tow. She said she had no concerns about her husband’s cruise, his second. “Just a quick homecoming,” she said.

“I’m used to it,” said Jannian Hager, wife of Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Raymond Hager, beginning his fourth deployment.

“He has to do it. It’s just going to be harder on the babies,” she said, nodding at their three young children, ages 6, 2, and 1, being watched by the couple’s 14-year-old daughter Makayla. “They know the boat’s here, but they don’t have a clue.”

One departing sailor was raring to go. Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Aircraft Handling) 3rd Class (AW) Yvette Carasco has been assigned to Ike for five years. But most of the first four were spent on shipyard duty while the nuclear flattop was getting overhauled and refueled. “I’m excited to get away from the yards -- the cleaning, the painting -- and actually do my job,” she said. “It’s going to save me some money and [help me] lose weight.”

Another Ike sailor making his first cruise seemed similarly pumped up.

“I’m ready to go,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate Airman Gerel Tillman. “I’m ready to go protect my country.”


By Alex Harrowell

October 10, 2006


If the Americans were going to attack Iran, you’d think they would do it when they had a ship or two available. Various people have been getting their knickers in a twist because the Dwight D. Eisenhower and her task group sailed for the Indian Ocean on the 3rd of October. (Nation, this means you.) There is a carrier group there already, around the Enterprise. Apparently this is a gathering armada and proof that The October Surprise is planned.

One problem. U.S. aircraft carriers work on a six-month operating cycle. When did Enterprise and Co. leave for the Indian Ocean and the Gulf? The 2nd of May. When did she arrive on station? A month later, on the 3rd of June. When is she due back in Norfolk? The 3rd of November, clearly. When must she leave her station? Now, or thereabouts. When must Eisenhower leave to relieve her? Well, the 3rd of October. Clearly.

Further, look at the rest of the fleet. Out of 11 ships, 5 are currently unavailable -- 4 out of 10, if you count the nearly-decommissioned John F. Kennedy. Carl Vinson, George Washington, Harry S. Truman, and Abraham Lincoln are all in dry docks and not going anywhere. The rest are not much more available.

Operating a nuclear-powered carrier is not simple. Each ship is a military airbase, indeed a small air force with the complete spectrum of aircraft roles and its own maintenance, a considerable headquarters and radar center, a nuclear power station, a hospital, and a barracks, sailing across the high seas. Unlike sensible nations, the U.S. Navy thinks conventional aircraft should be used on ships, which means that they must be catapult launched and must land into a big steel cable. The whole thing makes the International Space Station look like a Citroen 2CV.

Hence, they work to an immovable rota of training and maintenance. To deploy, a carrier must finish its dockyard schedule and then accumulate a succession of ticks in the right boxes. The first is proficiency training for the crew. Then comes carrier qualification (CARQUALs) for the air wing -- practice landings. Then comes a three-week long Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) for the whole ship. Finally, another three-week tactical exercise called a Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) for the ship, the task force and the air wing. Then the ship is, as they say, ready in all respects and may proceed to sea.

Over time, the schedule is meant to provide a constant level of readiness, but these things are never perfect and hence the actual results wander. Also, something like . . . a war . . . can disrupt the whole thing. In late 2001, some 5 carriers were sailed in short order, and then in late 2002 a 3-carrier task force was gathered to attack Iraq. The repercussions are still working through.

In detail, then. Enterprise is due to return and will probably need to take on stores before any attack. Eisenhower has sailed to relieve her. The ships given above are completely immobile, and only one of them could be pulled out of dockyard hands in a serious crisis. (’Serious’ here means Pearl Harbor.) Theodore Roosevelt is doing her CARQUALs and is therefore unready for at least two months, even if the training program could be undertaken without any time between exercises. Ronald Reagan is also in CARQUALs. Nimitz hasn’t even begun hers, and is currently tied up in San Francisco for Fleet Week.

The John C. Stennis is in the second week of her COMPTUEX, so even if she was sailed without doing a JTFEX she would miss the supposed target date. That only leaves Kitty Hawk in Japan, the forward-deployed carrier. She is the coalmine canary, but is as far as I know singing a healthy song.

What of the Royal Navy? Most of it, including 2 out of 3 assault ships, is currently steering for Sierra Leone for a joint amphibious exercise (and show of strength ahead of Charles Taylor’s trial), Ex VELA 06. It’s almost like someone was trying to put it as far from the Gulf by sea as is reasonably possible. HMS Illustrious returned from an earlier deployment to the Arabian Sea on the 3rd of August. Ark Royal is on sea trials having left Babcocks in Rosyth on the 2nd October -- she isn’t due in the Fleet until December. Invincible is effectively mothballed.

There are also the U.S. Marines to think of. Any operation against Iran would likely need three carriers and at least one, possibly two, Marine Expeditionary Strike Groups. So where are they? One is on station in the Middle East and another in Japan. And the Bonhomme Richard group is in San Francisco.

There will be no attack on Iran. Amateurs discuss tactics, professionals study logistics, right? It’s just a pity that, six months ago, everyone got all het up and they haven’t noticed a pattern.


Multiple commenters here and at highclearing.com following the Henley-alanche dropped on this post have asked whether an operation against Iran could be mounted from land bases alone. For a start, I’d refer you to Dan’s comment. But to unpack a little, it’s impractical. The U.S. does not, contrary to popular belief, possess a wealth of air bases in the Gulf. The biggest is in Qatar, which is (as Dan notes) unavailable -- Qatar even voted with Iran in the UNSC. There are field, forward bases in Iraq, which do not provide enough capacity and are heavily in use for tactical air operations in Iraq. Afghan bases will only provide a limited number of sorties, as the support infrastructure is, as they say, austere (i.e. there’s a runway but bugger all else). The RAF’s Tornado GR4 fleet, for example, cannot be used to support British forces in Afghanistan because the runway at Kandahar is too short, and the Jaguar fleet cannot be deployed because, at that altitude, they cannot take off with a useful load.

This leaves Diego Garcia and Ali Al Salem in Kuwait. One of these is a long way from the fight. Beyond these, there are of course the USAF’s long-range bombers, the B-52s and B-1Bs. However, the first cannot be used over Iran until the Iranian air defenSes are tackled, and the fleet of the second can’t do it all on its own. Also, many of the putative targets are said to be fortified or underground, which means that the warhead on a Tomahawk missile cannot be expected to penetrate them. Therefore, any attack will need a considerable number of sorties by fighter-bomber types to suppress air defenses before large bombers can be brought in. That requires bases close to the battlefield, and without host-nation support this means carriers.

Much of the airpower boosterism of the last few years has been the product of the unusually permissive environment of Iraq and Afghanistan, which has permitted large targets like B52s to loiter in enemy airspace waiting for the call to drop JDAMs. This cannot be assumed over Iran, which has been investing heavily in modern SAMs and maintains a significant but unknown modern fighter capability. Specifically, we don’t know at all what (if any) capability they have to attack high-value air assets like AWACS, Rivet Joint, JSTARS, and tankers. If their small fleet of F14s is operational and the AIM54 missiles usable, or reverse engineered, this could be a serious problem.



By Chris Hedges

October 9, 2006


--Editor’s Note: The former Middle East bureau chief for the New York Times and author of the bestseller War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning reports on Bush’s plan for Iran, and how a callous war, conceived by zealots, will lead to a disaster of biblical proportions.

The aircraft carrier Eisenhower, accompanied by the guided-missile cruiser USS Anzio, guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage, guided-missile destroyer USS Mason, and the fast-attack submarine USS Newport News, is, as I write, making its way to the Straits of Hormuz off Iran. The ships will be in place to strike Iran by the end of the month. It may be a bluff. It may be a feint. It may be a simple show of American power. But I doubt it.

War with Iran -- a war that would unleash an apocalyptic scenario in the Middle East -- is probable by the end of the Bush administration. It could begin in as little as three weeks. This administration, claiming to be anointed by a Christian God to reshape the world, and especially the Middle East, defined three states at the start of its reign as “the Axis of Evil.” They were Iraq, now occupied; North Korea, which, because it has nuclear weapons, is untouchable; and Iran. Those who do not take this apocalyptic rhetoric seriously have ignored the twisted pathology of men like Elliott Abrams, who helped orchestrate the disastrous and illegal contra war in Nicaragua, and who now handles the Middle East for the National Security Council. He knew nothing about Central America. He knows nothing about the Middle East. He sees the world through the childish, binary lens of good and evil, us and them, the forces of darkness and the forces of light. And it is this strange, twilight mentality that now grips most of the civilian planners who are barreling us towards a crisis of epic proportions.

These men advocate a doctrine of permanent war, a doctrine which, as William R. Polk points out, is a slight corruption of Leon Trotsky’s doctrine of permanent revolution. These two revolutionary doctrines serve the same function, to intimidate and destroy all those classified as foreign opponents, to create permanent instability and fear and to silence domestic critics who challenge leaders in a time of national crisis. It works. The citizens of the United States, slowly being stripped of their civil liberties, are being herded sheep-like, once again, over a cliff.

But this war will be different. It will be catastrophic. It will usher in the apocalyptic nightmares spun out in the dark, fantastic visions of the Christian right. And there are those around the president who see this vision as preordained by God; indeed, the president himself may hold such a vision.

The hypocrisy of this vaunted moral crusade is not lost on those in the Middle East. Iran actually signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. It has violated a codicil of that treaty written by European foreign ministers, but this codicil was never ratified by the Iranian parliament. I do not dispute Iran’s intentions to acquire nuclear weapons nor do I minimize the danger should it acquire them in the estimated five to 10 years. But contrast Iran with Pakistan, India, and Israel. These three countries refused to sign the treaty and developed nuclear weapons programs in secret. Israel now has an estimated 400 to 600 nuclear weapons. The word “Dimona,” the name of the city where the nuclear facilities are located in Israel, is shorthand in the Muslim world for the deadly Israeli threat to Muslims’ existence. What lessons did the Iranians learn from our Israeli, Pakistani, and Indian allies?

Given that we are actively engaged in an effort to destabilize the Iranian regime by recruiting tribal groups and ethnic minorities inside Iran to rebel, given that we use apocalyptic rhetoric to describe what must be done to the Iranian regime, given that other countries in the Middle East such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia are making noises about developing a nuclear capacity, and given that, with the touch of a button Israel could obliterate Iran, what do we expect from the Iranians? On top of this, the Iranian regime grasps that the doctrine of permanent war entails making “preemptive” and unprovoked strikes.

Those in Washington who advocate this war, knowing as little about the limitations and chaos of war as they do about the Middle East, believe they can hit about 1,000 sites inside Iran to wipe out nuclear production and cripple the 850,000-man Iranian army. The disaster in southern Lebanon, where the Israeli air campaign not only failed to break Hezbollah but united most Lebanese behind the militant group, is dismissed. These ideologues, after all, do not live in a reality-based universe. The massive Israeli bombing of Lebanon failed to pacify 4 million Lebanese. What will happen when we begin to pound a country of 70 million people? As retired General Wesley K. Clark and others have pointed out, once you begin an air campaign it is only a matter of time before you have to put troops on the ground or accept defeat, as the Israelis had to do in Lebanon. And if we begin dropping bunker busters, cruise missiles, and iron fragmentation bombs on Iran this is the choice that must be faced -- either sending American forces into Iran to fight a protracted and futile guerrilla war or walking away in humiliation.

“As a people we are enormously forgetful,” Dr. Polk, one of the country’s leading scholars on the Middle East, told an Oct. 13 gathering of the Foreign Policy Association in New York. “We should have learned from history that foreign powers can’t win guerrilla wars. The British learned this from our ancestors in the American Revolution and re-learned it in Ireland. Napoleon learned it in Spain. The Germans learned it in Yugoslavia. We should have learned it in Vietnam and the Russians learned it in Afghanistan and are learning it all over again in Chechnya and we are learning it, of course, in Iraq. Guerrilla wars are almost unwinnable. As a people we are also very vain. Our way of life is the only way. We should have learned that the rich and powerful can’t always succeed against the poor and less powerful.”

An attack on Iran will ignite the Middle East. The loss of Iranian oil, coupled with Silkworm missile attacks by Iran on oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, could send oil soaring to well over $110 a barrel. The effect on the domestic and world economy will be devastating, very possibly triggering a huge, global depression. The 2 million Shiites in Saudi Arabia, the Shiite majority in Iraq and the Shiite communities in Bahrain, Pakistan, and Turkey will turn in rage on us and our dwindling allies. We will see a combination of increased terrorist attacks, including on American soil, and the widespread sabotage of oil production in the Gulf. Iraq, as bad as it looks now, will become a death pit for American troops as Shiites and Sunnis, for the first time, unite against their foreign occupiers.

The country, however, that will pay the biggest price will be Israel. And the sad irony is that those planning this war think of themselves as allies of the Jewish state. A conflagration of this magnitude could see Israel drawn back in Lebanon and sucked into a regional war, one that would over time spell the final chapter in the Zionist experiment in the Middle East. The Israelis aptly call their nuclear program “the Samson option.” The Biblical Samson ripped down the pillars of the temple and killed everyone around him, along with himself.

If you are sure you will be raptured into heaven, your clothes left behind with the nonbelievers, then this news should cheer you up. If you are rational, however, these may be some of the last few weeks or months in which to enjoy what is left of our beleaguered, dying republic and way of life.


Iran News


Adnkronos International (AKI, Italy)
October 11, 2006


Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has held an emergency meeting after reports that US nuclear powered aircraft carrier Eisenhower was moving towards the Persian Gulf. Khamenei met on Tuesday night with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and the head of the Iranian army and the revolutionary guards corps Pasdaran, Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the founder of the Islamic Republic, along with advisors to Khamenei.

During the talks, Iranian online daily Roozonline reports, participants discussed the possibility of a U.S. military attack and the consequences of potential sanctions on Iran.

According to Roozonline, Khamenei stressed the need to present a united Iranian front to the international community.

The Eisenhower is expected to reach the Persian Gulf on 21 October while another U.S. aircraft carrier, the Enterprise, will also be allegedly close to the Iranian coasts. The Enterprise was employed in 2001 by the United States to bomb Afghanistan after the September 11 terror attacks on the U.S.

According to Baztab, a website controlled by the Pasdaran, "the United States is gaining positions in the sea and countries close to Iran in case the Pentagon wants to launch an attack on the Islamic Republic."

According to Baztab, the U.S. has already drafted a plan to attack Iranian nuclear plants and its military installations by sea and air.

U.S. president has not ruled out the possibility of a military attack against Iran if it continues to pursue its nuclear program which it fears is aimed at building nuclear weapons. Washington is currently pressing the Security Council to impose sanctions on Iran for its repeated refusal to halt sensitive nuclear work.

Baztab also said that "if the presence of US navy ships in the Persian Gulf turned into a real threat for the Islamic Republic then the region's oil pipeline would explode, as would mines in the Hormuz Strait (a key shipping route for oil) when oil tankers pass through so as to make the price of oil double or triple."

Iran is the world's fourth largest crude oil producer.