WASHINGTON — The United States has made it official: A U.S. naval build-up in
the Persian Gulf is underway.
Officials said the naval build-up would contain two aircraft strike
carriers in the largest U.S. presence in the Gulf since 2003. They said this
would consist of more than 50 warships and support vessels.
"The purpose of that is simply to underscore to our friends, as well as
to our potential adversaries in the region, that the United States has
considered the Persian Gulf and that whole area, and stability in that area,
to be a vital national interest," Defense Secretary Robert Gates said.
Gates told a Defense Department briefing on Feb. 2 that the United
States was not planning war with Iran. But he stressed that that expanded
U.S. military presence was meant was meant to counter Iranian subversion of
neighboring Iran and regional allies.
"What we are trying to do is in Iraq," Gates said, "counter what the
Iranians are doing to our soldiers, their involvement in activities,
particularly these explosively formed projectiles that are killing our
troops, and we are trying to get them to stop their nuclear enrichment. We
are doing the latter strictly through the diplomatic process. It seems to be
showing some progress."
One strike carrier group has already been deployed in the Gulf. The
second group, led by the USS John C. Stennis, was expected to arrive over
the next two weeks.
Officials said the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group would also sail
into the Gulf. The ESG, consisting of seven warships manned by 6,000
sailors and Marines, would perform maritime security and other missions.
"We'll continue our role as the surface warfare commander and the air
defense commander for the Bataan Expeditionary Strike Group," Bataan
operations officer Cmdr. Jon Carriglitto said. "Together with the MEU, we
bring the ability to insert a quick, capable amphibious force where it's