Today, the Nimitz carrier group is rapidly approaching the Persian
Gulf, where it will join two other U.S.
aircraft carrier groups and the French carrier Charles De Gaulle in the largest
concentration of naval firepower in the region since the launching of the U.S.
invasion of Iraq
four years ago.
Why this concentration now? Officially, the Nimitz is on its way to the Gulf to
replace the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which is due to return to the United
States for crew leave and ship maintenance
after months on station. But the U.S. Central Command (Centcom), which
exercises command authority over all U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf area,
refuses to say when the Eisenhower will actually depart — or even when the
Nimitz will arrive.
For a time, at least, the United
States will have three carrier battle groups
in the region. The USS John C. Stennis is the third. Each carrier is
accompanied by a small flotilla of cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and
support vessels, many equipped with Tomahawk land-attack cruise missiles
(TLAMs). Minimally, this gives modern meaning to the classic imperial term
“gunboat diplomacy,” which makes it all the stranger that the
deployment of the Nimitz is covered in the media, if at all, as the most minor
of news stories.
And when the Nimitz sailed off into the Pacific last month
on its way to the Gulf, it simply disappeared off media radar screens like some
classic “lost patrol.”
After all, with the arrival of the Nimitz battle group, the
Bush administration will be — for an unknown period of time — in an optimal
position to strike Iran with a punishing array of bombs and missiles should the
President decide to carry out his oft-repeated threat to eliminate Iran's
nuclear program through military action. “All options,” as the
administration loves to say, remain ominously “on the table.”
Meanwhile, negotiations to resolve the impasse with Iran
over its pursuit of uranium-enrichment technology continue at the United
Nations in New York and in
various European capitals.
Just this weekend, a conference in Egypt, called by Iraqi
officials to explore regional approaches to stability in the region (with
Iranian officials expected to be in attendance), was being viewed in Washington
as yet another opportunity to pressure Tehran to be more submissive to the
West's demands on a wide range of issues, including Iranian support for Shiite
militias in Iraq.
President Bush keeps insisting that he would like to see these
“diplomatic” endeavors — as he describes them — succeed, but he has
yet to bring up a single proposal or incentive that might offer any realistic
prospect of eliciting a positive Iranian response.
And so, knowing that his “diplomatic” efforts are almost certain to
fail, Bush may simply be waiting for the day when he can announce to the
American people that he has “tried everything”; that “his
patience has run out”; and that he can “no longer risk the security
of the American people” by “indulging in further fruitless negotiations,”
thereby allowing the Iranians “to proceed farther down the path of nuclear
bomb-making,” and so has taken the perilous but necessary step of ordering
American forces to conduct air and missile strikes on Iranian nuclear
facilities. At that point, the 80 planes aboard the Nimitz — and those on the
Eisenhower and the Stennis as well — will be on their way to targets in Iran,
along with hundreds of TLAMs and a host of other weapons now being assembled in
Following Sunday's election of Sarkozy as the new French president, I wonder where France now stands in relation to this build up and possible offensive action in the Gulf, and what will the rules of engagement be with regard to British Warships…