SECOND U.S. CARRIER ARRIVES OFF IRAN
Herald Sun (Melbourne, Australia)
February 21, 2007
MANAMA (Bahrain) -- A second U.S. aircraft carrier arrived in Middle Eastern waters today as promised by U.S. President George W. Bush amid an escalating crisis with nearby Iran over its nuclear program.
The USS John C. Stennis and its accompanying strike group joined the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower in the Sea of Oman but has not yet entered Gulf waters, the U.S. Fifth Fleet said from its base in Manama.
The Stennis "entered the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations . . . to conduct maritime security operations in regional waters, as well as to provide support for ground forces operating in Afghanistan and Iraq," said a U.S. statement.
Mr. Bush on January 10 unveiled his new strategy for Iraq which included deploying a second aircraft carrier group and a Patriot anti-missile defense system "to reassure our friends and allies."
Washington accuses arch-foe Tehran of stoking the insurgency in Iraq and of seeking to develop a nuclear bomb, charges denied by the Islamic republic.
Days after Mr. Bush's announcement, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Stennis's redeployment was a signal to Iran, which, he said, has a "very negative" attitude.
Iran has also been carrying out military exercises in the region, including test-firing missiles and building drones that military commanders boasted could hit the U.S. Navy.
The White House has repeatedly insisted it has no plans to strike Iran, and downplayed the significance of reinforcing the U.S. military presence in the Gulf region.
USS STENNIS JOINS STRIKE GROUP IN MIDDLE EAST
By Ed Friedrich
Sun (Bremerton, WA)
February 20, 2007
The Bremerton-based aircraft carrier John C. Stennis and its strike group steamed into Middle Eastern waters Monday, marking the first time since the 2003 invasion of Iraq that two U.S. carrier battle groups have prowled the region together.
Its role is to help foster stability and security in the region, said Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, the strike group's commander.
The Stennis joins the U.S. 5th Fleet Area of Operation, which encompasses 2.5 million square miles of water and includes the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman, and parts of the Indian Ocean.
The Stennis, with its crew of 3,200, has been busy. It departed Bremerton on Jan. 16, stopped at San Diego to pick up its 1,800-person air wing, and headed west across the Pacific Ocean.
En route, it was joined by the rest of the strike group -- guided missile cruiser Antietam and guided-missile destroyer Preble from San Diego and guided missile destroyers O'Kane and Paul Hamilton from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The fast combat-support ship Bridge, based in Bremerton, is also part of the strike force.
Stennis crews completed three days of takeoffs and landings off of San Diego to qualify pilots. They then conducted four days of combat-simulated flight operations over Guam. Before the Stennis even left Bremerton, it spent a year of training and qualifying to be certified as a combat-ready strike group.
"We have spent a year preparing for this deployment and we are ready for whatever tasking comes our way," said Quinn.
The strike group will support ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, be prepared to take part in Horn of Africa (Somalia) operations, and ensure security and safety in international waters so commercial shipping can operate freely.
The Stennis was scheduled to deploy to the Western Pacific, but its course was shifted to the Middle East after President Bush's troop-buildup announcement Jan. 10. It is scheduled to return to port in about eight months.
USS JOHN C. STENNIS CARRIER STRIKE GROUP ARRIVES IN 5th FLEET
By Lt. Nathan Christensen, Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet
February 20, 2007
USS JOHN C. STENNIS, At Sea -- The USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (JCSSG) entered the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations (AOO) Feb.19 to conduct Maritime Security Operations (MSO) in regional waters, as well as to provide support for ground forces operating in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Led by Rear Adm. Kevin Quinn, Commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 3, the strike group includes the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), Carrier Air Wing (CVW 9), Destroyer Squadron (DESRON)21, the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), guided-missile destroyers USS O’Kane (DDG 77) and USS Preble (DDG 88), and the fast combat-support ship USNS Bridge (T-AOE 10). More than 6,500 Sailors and Marines are assigned to JCSSG.
“The USS John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group is here to help foster stability and security in the region,” said Quinn. “We look forward to working with our coalition partners to provide support for ground forces operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as conducting maritime security operations that help provide a safe environment for shipping within the region. We are ready, we are sustainable, we are flexible, and we provide significant capabilities that contribute to regional peace and security.”
MSO help set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counter-terrorism and security efforts of regional nations. These operations deny international terrorists use of the maritime environment as a venue for attack or to transport personnel, weapons or other material.
U.S. 5th Fleet’s AOO encompasses 2.5 million square miles of water and includes the Arabian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.
For related news, visit the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/Commander, U.S. 5th Fleet Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cusnc/.
USS STENNIS CARRIER GROUP DEPLOYS INTO GULF REGION
By Andy Critchlow
February 20, 2007
DUBAI -- A U.S. aircraft carrier battle group led by the USS John C. Stennis arrived in the Persian Gulf region as part of a buildup of forces amid heightened tension with Iran.
The nuclear-powered Stennis, sent by President George W. Bush last month, arrived in the region Feb. 15 to join the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower as the second aircraft carrier battle group in the region, according to a statement from the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, which operates in the Persian Gulf.
The deployment of additional naval forces "is here to help foster stability and security in the region," Rear Admiral Kevin Quinn, commander of the naval force, said in the statement.
The U.S. and Iran are engaged in an increasingly tense standoff. The Bush administration contends Iran is taking steps to develop a nuclear weapon and meddling in Iraq. Last week, Bush said the Qods Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps is supplying explosives to militants in neighboring Iraq who are attacking U.S. troops.
The British Broadcasting Corp., citing unidentified diplomatic officials, reported today that the U.S. has contingency plans to attack Iranian nuclear sites and military infrastructure if the Islamic Republic is confirmed to be developing a nuclear weapon or is linked to a major strike against U.S. forces in Iraq.
"Certainly another carrier gives the U.S. the ability to act if they are provoked by Iran," Mustafa Alani, director of national security at the Dubai, United Arab Emirates-based Gulf Research Center, said in a telephone interview today.
Bryan Whitman, a spokesman for the U.S. Defense Department, called the BBC report "ludicrous." He said that while the U.S. has "significant concerns" about both Iran's nuclear program and its activities in Iraq, American officials have said repeatedly that they intend to address those issues through diplomacy.
That message was reinforced at the White House, where Bush spokesman Tony Snow said that any speculation the U.S. is looking for a military confrontation with Iran is "unwarranted." The administration has a "clear commitment to pursue a diplomatic course" with the Islamic Republic, he said.
Iran faces a United Nations deadline tomorrow to suspend work on enriching uranium, which can be used to fuel a nuclear reactor or build a bomb. Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, met today in Vienna with Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the U.N.'s nuclear agency. Larijani said they had "good, constructive" discussions.
Earlier, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dismissed the Security Council's demands.
The Iranian people "will protect their nuclear rights until the end," Ahmadinejad, pronounced ah-ma-deen-ah-ZHAD, told supporters at a rally in Iran's northern Gilan province today that was carried live on state television.
Snow said that while the U.S. is willing to let the Iranians pursue civilian nuclear power, any steps that could lead to development of a weapon, including uranium enrichment, aren't acceptable.
"The United States and its allies on this are standing pretty firm, in terms of sending a clear message to the government in Tehran," Snow said. "Iran should not be in a position to develop or possess nuclear weapons."
The USS Stennis is accompanied in the Middle East by a flotilla of naval vessels including the guided-missile ships USS Antietam, USS O'Kane, and USS Preble, according to the U.S. Navy statement.
Iran, the second-largest producer in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, dominates the Strait of Hormuz. The waterway links the Gulf with neighboring Omani waters and is the main thoroughfare for oil tankers shipping the region's crude exports.