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Pentagon Dismisses Iran Threat On Persian Gulf Transit

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(RFE/RL) — The Pentagon has said it will continue sending U.S. aircraft carrier strike groups into the Persian Gulf, despite a threat by Iran’s military to take action.

Pentagon spokesman George Little said in a statement on January 3 that “the deployment of U.S. military assets in the Persian Gulf region will continue as it has for decades.”

The statement said that “these carrier strike group deployments are necessary to maintain the continuity and operational support to ongoing missions.”

Earlier on the same day, the Reuters news agency quoted a U.S. defense official as saying that the United States will continue to deploy its warships in the Persian Gulf, after Iran threatened to take action if the U.S. Navy moves an aircraft carrier into the region.

According to Reuters, U.S. Commander Bill Speaks said that “these are regularly scheduled movements and in accordance with our long-standing commitments to the security and stability of the region and in support of ongoing operations.”

He added that the U.S. Navy “operates under international maritime conventions to maintain a constant state of high vigilance in order to ensure the continued, safe flow of maritime traffic in waterways critical to global commerce.”

Little and Speaks’ remarks come after the head of Iran’s armed forces said a U.S. aircraft carrier deployed in the Middle East should not return to the Gulf.

Ataollah Salehi was quoted by several Iranian news agencies today as saying Iran would take action if the aircraft carrier returned, and that there would be no repeat warning.

He did not name the aircraft carrier, or give details of the action Iran might take if it returned.

On Monday, Iran completed 10 days of naval exercises by firing a series of missiles in the Gulf, near the Strait of Hormuz through which more than a third of the world’s tanker oil is shipped.

Iranian officials have previously threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz if Western powers pressed ahead with sanctions against Iran’s oil sector.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain, has said it would not allow shipping to be disrupted in the strait.

Last week, the “USS John C. Stennis” passed through the strait on what the State Department said was a “routine” passage.

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RFE/RL journalists report the news in 21 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established.

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