Iranian patrol boats and planes have trailed the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln as it passed through the Strait of Hormuz on Tuesday.
Iran’s navy never approached the battle group closer than half a mile, making a point to stay in the Iranian waters. Radar operators also revealed an Iranian drone and surveillance helicopter zooming in the Persian country’s airspace near the strategic strait. A patrol plane buzzed over the Lincoln, said Rear Adm. Troy Shoemaker, commander of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Force.
“We would do the same things off the coast of the United States… It’s more than reasonable. We’re operating in their backyard,” he said.
Flanked by several choppers and enforced by the cruiser USS Cape St. George and destroyer USS Sterett, the American battle group passed the narrow strait without incident, reports the Associated Press.
This is the second time the US warship crosses the strait in recent weeks. The Abraham Lincoln, which carries dozens of F/A-18 strike fighters and other planes, entered the Gulf in January, despite Iran’s earlier warning to the US to stay out. Washington says that on Thursday the warship starts aiding the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
Tehran has slammed the build-up of Western military power in the Persian Gulf.
The heavy military presence by the US and its allies has turned the Gulf into a weapons depot, Iran’s Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi said on Tuesday.
Tehran will not give up its interest in the Gulf and warns against any efforts to undermine its regional role, added the Minister, as quoted by Iran’s Press TV.
While Tehran reaffirms its intension to block the Strait of Hormuz, connecting the Gulf exporters with the Arabian Sea, Washington has pledged to keep the vital oil lane open.
The US has positioned another battle group in the region – headed by the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise is expected to join the strike force in March, in a move that would send “a direct message to Iran,” US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in January.
France’s aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is also heading for the Gulf. Last month, Paris and London commissioned their battle ships to join the American navy in the Persian waters.
On January 23, the EU banned all oil imports from Iran starting with July. Iran might cut crude supplies to Europe even before this deadline, targeting the staggering economies in the Old World.
The West suspects Iran of attempting to build nuclear weapons – a charge Tehran vehemently denies, saying that their nuclear program is solely for power generation.