Vice President Dick Cheney fired a new warning shot across the bow of the nation of Iran Friday, saying the United States would prevent the country from developing nuclear weapons.
Speaking aboard an aircraft carrier some four years after President Bush declared victory in “major” Iraq combat operations, Cheney declared, “we want to complete the mission, get it done right and return with honor.”
The US has two aircraft carriers in the region.
AP notes that “Iran exerts considerable control over the narrow passageway that separates the Persian Gulf from the open waters of the Arabian Sea. Roughly a quarter of the world’s oil supplies pass through the Straits of Hormuz.”
Cheney spoke as five warplanes stood arrayed behind him. The carrier was some 20 miles off the coast of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, with Iran 150 miles to the East.
“Cheney’s visit comes just two days before Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was to visit Abu Dhabi,” according to AP.
Officials told reporters that roughly 4,000 of the carrier’s 5,000 sailors stood in 100-degree temperatures to hear Cheney speak. The American vice president arrived and departed by helicopter.
Also Friday, Iran denied claims it had blocked UN inspectors from making a first unannounced inspection of an underground nuclear site despite a pledge to allow such visits, state news agency IRNA reported.
“We deny it. There is no problem with the visits by International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors based on the Non-Proliferation Treaty,” said Iran’s representative to the UN watchdog.
On Thursday, diplomats told AFP Tehran had reneged on a pledge to allow an unannounced test inspection of the site where it enriches uranium.
Iran is defying UN demands for it to stop enriching uranium, which makes fuel for nuclear power reactors but can also produce the explosive core of atomic bombs.
As a result, the UN Security Council has imposed two sets of limited sanctions on Iran. A negative IAEA report could lead to a third round of sanctions.
President George W. Bush in January ordered a second US aircraft carrier group to the Gulf and announced the deployment of a Patriot missile defense battalion to the region to protect allies against potential strikes.
Bush also vowed that US forces would “seek out and destroy” any networks funneling weapons or fighters from Syria or Iran into Iraq, where deadly sectarian violence has fueled the war’s deep unpopularity with the US public.
“Success in Iraq remains critical to our national security,” said Cheney, who pressed leaders in Baghdad Wednesday and Thursday to step up efforts at national reconciliation amid a US-led security crackdown.
“The ultimate solution in Iraq will be a political solution. But that requires basic security, especially in Baghdad, where our troops are working beside Iraqi forces to carry out our new strategy,” said Cheney.