US deployments across Mideast factor in Iran tensions | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

US deployments across Mideast factor in Iran tensions

Associated Press
1147169_web1_1147169-fb3d409aea664a0cb342583f04d2bcea
1147169_web1_1147169-f8320d5d39d8456988876921969711d4
1147169_web1_1147169-0907cef8ec254501a2944a638ecccb78
U.S. Navy via AP Aviation Maintenance Administrationman 2nd Class Jason Caldwell observes sunrise on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln while transiting the Suez Canal in Egypt.
1147169_web1_1147169-f4daa2cbbc3343bcbe04cf022ac46cd0
1147169_web1_1147169-1fd6de5ebda34864af32c57155849165
1147169_web1_1147169-d94febc417924693b2a96a449681488b

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — A U.S. aircraft carrier strike group rushes toward the Persian Gulf. Decades-old B-52 bombers rumble down runways at desert air bases. The Pentagon, meanwhile, routes a Patriot missile battery and an amphibious supply ship to return to the region.

These military deployments in the Persian Gulf, beginning with a sudden May 5 order from the White House citing still-unspecified threats from Iran, comes as Tehran has begun setting its own deadlines over its unraveling nuclear deal that President Trump pulled America of out of a year ago.

Yet even without these movements, the U.S. has maintained a vast network of bases across the Persian Gulf dating back to the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. Allied Gulf Arab nations, many rich from oil reserves, equip their own forces with billions of dollars of American arms as well.

Here’s what military assets the U.S. has across the Persian Gulf, those it is now bringing in, and why America has maintained its long presence in the region.

‘UNRELENTING FORCE’

John Bolton, Trump’s national security adviser, announced the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and its strike group on May 5 over “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings” that still have not been specified. He warned Iran any attack on U.S. interests or allies would face “unrelenting force.” The Lincoln, which left the U.S. in April on a scheduled deployment, had planned to come to the Persian Gulf on its around-the-world trip to San Diego. Now it is steaming there earlier. Alongside the Lincoln are three destroyers, the USS Bainbridge, the USS Mason and the USS Nitze, as well as the guided-missile cruiser the USS Leyte Gulf and a Spanish frigate, the ESPS Mendez Nunez.

Separately, B-52s from the 20th Bomb Squadron of Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana have landed in Qatar and elsewhere in “southwest Asia” — possibly the United Arab Emirates — in recent days.

On Friday, the Pentagon announced it would be returning a Patriot missile battery to the wider Mideast, as well as sending the USS Arlington, an amphibious warship carrying U.S. Marines. The USS Kearsarge, an amphibious assault ship carrying Marines and warplanes, just left the Persian Gulf and is nearby in the Arabian Sea.

U.S. BASES, PERSONNEL IN THE REGION

The Persian Gulf hosts a series of major American military installations.

The U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, which oversees the region, is based in Bahrain, an island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia that is home to over 7,000 American troops. Kuwait hosts over 13,000 American troops and the U.S. Army’s Central forward headquarters. Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is the largest port of call for the U.S. Navy outside of America. The UAE hosts 5,000 U.S. military personnel, many at Abu Dhabi’s Al Dhafra Air Base, where American drones and advanced F-35 jetfighters are stationed. The forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command is at Qatar’s sprawling Al Udeid Air Base, home to some 10,000 American troops. In Oman, the sultanate allows thousands of overflights and hundreds of landings a year, while also granting access to ports and its bases.

Meanwhile, U.S. special forces personnel reportedly are on the ground in Yemen amid the Saudi-led war against the Houthi rebels. The U.S. also carries out a yearslong drone-strike campaign there targeting suspected members of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula.

U.S. PRESENCE FROM THE CARTER DOCTRINE TO THE WAR YEARS

During the Cold War, the U.S. pledged to defend its Persian Gulf allies from the Soviet Union. By the start of 1980, however, the region was in turmoil.

The Islamic Revolution in Iran had thrown out the American-allied shah. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan sparked fear in the administration of President Jimmy Carter that Moscow could be within striking distance of the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf through which a third of all oil traded by sea now passes. The president’s eponymous Carter Doctrine emerged from that. It holds that the U.S. would use military force to defend its interests across the energy-rich Persian Gulf.

But what would cement the U.S. presence in the region came in 1990, when Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded his oil-rich neighbor Kuwait. Defense agreements struck with Gulf Arab nations then grew into a series of major military installations across the region. The presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia, home to the Muslim world’s holiest sites, served as a chief complaint of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden ahead of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Those attacks led to the U.S. war in Afghanistan, which continues today over 17 years later.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq and the chaos that followed, including the rise of the Islamic State group there and in Syria, only increased the importance the U.S. holds on its bases in the region.

THE VIEW FROM IRAN

Iran’s Shiite theocracy long has looked at the presence of U.S. forces ringing its country with suspicion. One flash point is the Strait of Hormuz in the territorial waters of Iran and Oman, which at its narrowest point is just 21 miles wide. The width of the shipping lane in either direction is only 2 miles.

The strait is viewed as an international transit route. American forces routinely travel through the area, despite sometimes-tense encounters with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force answerable only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. For its part, Iran compares the American presence to Tehran sending warships to the Gulf of Mexico.

“Breaking: Our Navy operates in — yes, correct — the Persian Gulf, not the Gulf of Mexico. Question is what US Navy doing 7,500 miles from home,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif once tweeted in 2017, attaching a map showing the distance between the two bodies of water.

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.