Saturday, August 9, 2008

Two U.S. Aircraft Carriers Head For The Gulf; Kuwait Prepares "Emergency War Plan"

Dave Kaiser AHN

Two additional U.S. Navy aircraft carriers are on their way to the Gulf and the Red Sea, according to Kuwait Times. Kuwait began finalizing its "emergency war plan" on being told the vessels were bound for the region.

The U.S. Navy will neither confirm nor deny that carriers are currently en route. U.S. Fifth Fleet Combined Maritime Command located in Bahrain said it could not comment because of what a spokesman termed "force-protection policy."

While the Kuwaiti daily did not name the ships it believes are heading for the Middle East, The Media Line's (TML) defense analyst said they could be the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Ronald Reagan.

Within the last month, the Roosevelt completed an exercise along the U.S. east coast focusing on communication among navies of different countries. Since then, it has since been declared ready for operational duties.

The Reagan, currently with the Seventh Fleet, has just set sail from Japan.

The Seventh Fleet area of operation stretches from the East Coast of Africa to the International Date Line.

Meanwhile, the Arabic news agency Moheet reported at the end of July that an unnamed American destroyer, accompanied by two Israeli naval vessels traveled through the Suez Canal from the Mediterranean. A week earlier, a U.S. nuclear submarine accompanied by a destroyer and a supply ship moved into the Mediterranean, according to Moheet.

At present, two U.S. naval battle groups operate in the Gulf: one is an aircraft carrier group, led by the USS Abraham Lincoln, which carries some 65-fighter aircraft. The other group, headed by the USS Peleliu, maintains a variety of planes and strike helicopters.

The ship movements coincide with the latest downturn in relations between Washington and Tehran. The U.S. and Iran are at odds over Iran's nuclear program, which the Bush administration claims is aimed at producing material for nuclear weapons; however, Tehran argues it is only for power generation.

Kuwait, like other Arab countries in the Gulf, fears it will be caught in the middle should the U.S. decide to launch an air strike against Iran if negotiations fail. The Kuwaitis are finalizing details of their security, humanitarian and vital services, the newspaper reported.

The six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman - lie just across the Gulf from Iran. Generals in the Iranian military have repeatedly warned it will target American interests in the region if the U.S. or its Western allies launch a military strike.

Bahrain hosts the U.S. Fifth Fleet, while there is a sizeable American base in Qatar. It is assumed the U.S. also has military personnel in the other Gulf states, TML's defense analyst said.

Iran is thought to have intelligence operatives working in the GCC states, according to Dubai-based military analysts.

The standoff between the U.S. and Iran has left the Arab nations' political leaders in something of a bind. The TML analyst said Washington and Tehran are using Arab nations as pawns.

Iran is offering them economic and industrial sweeteners, while the U.S. is boosting their defense capabilities. Presidents George W. Bush and Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad have paid visits to the GCC states in a bid to win their support.