Wednesday, March 28, 2007

US to Invade Iran?

I can't believe that Bush is even thinking about invading Iran.

Massive US Navy exercise continues off coast of Iran

ABOARD THE USS JOHN C STENNIS: US fighter jets battled imaginary enemy ships and aircraft off the coast of Iran yesterday during the second and final day of the largest US Navy exercise in the Arabian Gulf since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. US commanders said the maneuvers were not a direct response to Iran's seizure on Friday of 15 British sailors and Marines, but the parade of two aircraft carriers, 13 support ships and 125 aircraft only 42 miles off Iran's coast was clearly intended to send a message of US military prowess. Rear Admiral Kevin Quinn, commander of Strike Group Three, which includes the USS John C Stennis said the purpose of the exercises was to show "the commitment of the US to stability and security in the region." Commander Chris Rentfrow said that although the Iranians were watching, the operations had not elicited a reaction.

"Operations are pretty much normal," he said, "we've seen some activity from their patrol aircraft, which is entirely normal." The relationship between the US and Iran has grown increasingly strained in recent months over Iran's nuclear program and its alleged support for Shiite militias in Iraq.

Tensions increased even further after Friday, when Iranian forces captured 15 British sailors for allegedly entering Iranian territorial waters. US and British officials insist the team was operating under a UN mandate and with the permission of the Iraqi government to search cargo vessels inside Iraqi waters. Operations onboard the Stennis continued at breakneck pace yesterday as a mass of men and machines conducted their highly coordinated routine. Hundreds of sailors dressed in green, yellow and blue jackets to indicate their functions waved hand signals at each other to communicate through the noise. The smell of jet fuel permeated the air. With one final salute to the men and women on the deck, pilots catapulted off the carrier in waves, producing a shockwave strong enough to knock observers back a step. The deck of the USS Stennis is so large that two planes can land on it, and two can take off, simultaneously.

Captain Bradley Johanson, the commanding officer of the Stennis, said the carrier flew 84 missions with 64 aircraft on Tuesday. Another 79 sorties were planned.

Lieutenant Dennis Cox, who selects weapons for the jets, said he could feel the excitement in the air. "Today, I talked with a few of the crew, and they were flying double hops," he said. "This is fairly unusual. I could tell by the looks on their faces that they had a big day." The war games involve over 13,000 US personnel mounting simulated attacks on enemy aircraft and ships, while hunting submarines and looking for mines. US officials have made it clear that US warships would stay out of Iran's territorial waters, which extend 12 miles off the Iranian coast. The US drills were the latest in a series of competing American and Iranian war games in the region.

Iran conducted naval maneuvers in November and April, while in October the Navy led a training exercise aimed at blocking nuclear smuggling. The Stennis strike group, with more than 6,500 sailors and marines, entered the Gulf late Monday or early Tuesday along with the guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam, the Navy said. The Stennis, which had been supporting military operations in Afghanistan from the Arabian Sea, joined the strike group led by the Eisenhower. It is the first time two US aircraft carriers have operated in the Gulf since the US-led invasion of Iraq.

The Eisenhower was operating off the coast of Somalia in January and February. Ships from Bahrain's navy were also operating in the region during the exercise, but US and Bahraini officials denied they were taking part in the maneuvers. US commanders have said that none of America's naval coalition partners in the region joined the exercise. - AP

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