’2 US aircraft carriers headed for Gulf’

Two additional United States naval aircraft carriers are heading to the Gulf and the Red Sea, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper Kuwait Times.

Kuwait began finalizing its “emergency war plan” on being told the vessels were bound for the region.

The US Navy would neither confirm nor deny that carriers were en route. US Fifth Fleet Combined Maritime Command located in Bahrain said it could not comment due to what a spokesman termed “force-protection policy.”

While the Kuwaiti daily did not name the ships it believed were heading for the Middle East, The Media Line’s defense analyst said they could be the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan.

Within the last month, the Roosevelt completed an exercise along the US east coast focusing on communication among navies of different countries. It has since been declared ready for operational duties. The Reagan, currently with the Seventh Fleet, had 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 US nuclear submarine accompanied by a destroyer and a supply ship moved into the Mediterranean, according to Moheet.

Currently there are two US naval battle groups operating in the Gulf: one is an aircraft carrier group, led by the USS Abraham Lincoln, which carries some 65 fighter aircraft. The other group is headed by the USS Peleliu which maintains a variety of planes and strike helicopters.

The ship movements coincide with the latest downturn in relations between Washington and Teheran. The US and Iran are at odds over Iran’s nuclear program, which the Bush administration claims is aimed at producing material for nuclear weapons; however, Teheran 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 US 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 (GCC) – Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, the UAE and Oman – lie just across the Gulf from Iran. Generals in the Iranian military have repeatedly warned that American interests in the region would be targeted if Iran is subjected to any military strike by the US or its Western allies.

Bahrain hosts the US Fifth Fleet, while there is a sizeable American base in Qatar. It is assumed the US also has military personnel in the other Gulf states, The Media Line’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 US and Iran has left the Arab nations’ political leaders in something of a bind, as they were being used as pawns by Washington and Teheran, according to The Media Line analyst.

Iran has offered them economic and industrial sweeteners, while the US is boosting their defense capabilities. US President George W. Bush and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have paid visits to the GCC states in a bid to win their support.
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