The carrier Carl Vinson has arrived in 5th Fleet, putting naval forces closer to Iran as tensions between that country and the United States continue to escalate.
Vinson, as well as embarked Carrier Air Wing 17, cruiser Bunker Hill and destroyer Halsey, entered 5th Fleet on Jan. 9, where it is expected to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Navy and Defense Department officials said last week that threats and military exercises from Iran would not deter U.S. forces from continuing to work in the region and that operations were running as usual with no special response to Iran’s provocations.
The carrier John C. Stennis also is in 5th Fleet supporting OEF. The Navy didn’t disclose the Vinson’s exact location, but carriers supporting the war in Afghanistan typically do not operate from the Persian Gulf.
On Jan. 3, Iranian Army chief Ataollah Salehi warned Stennis not to operate in the Gulf.
“I advise, recommend and warn them over their return of this carrier to the Persian Gulf because we are not in the habit of warning more than once,” Salehi said as his country practiced shutting down the Strait of Hormuz, a chokepoint for shipping about 20 percent of the world’s oil supply. Vinson had left the Gulf and entered the Sea of Oman.
Vinson’s arrival comes as tensions with Iran continue. Days earlier, Iran sentenced former Marine Amir Marzaei Hekmati to death, charging him with working for the CIA and spying on the country. The State Department and White House both condemned the verdict, demanded his prompt release and accused Iran of creating false charges against Hekmati. Various media reports said that Hekmati, who was born in Arizona, was in Iran visiting family.
Meanwhile, the United States continues to provide maritime assistance to distressed Iranian sailors. On Jan. 5, sailors from the destroyer Kidd, a part of the Stennis Carrier Strike Group, boarded an Iranian boat that had been captured by Somali pirates. The 13 Iranians fishermen onboard were rescued, provided with treated treatment, given supplies and sent on their way home.
On Tuesday, the Coast Guard cutter Monomoy rescued six Iranians whose boat had engine problems and was taking on water. source – Navy Times