An Iranian warplane has spotted a US aircraft carrier during Tehran’s ongoing navy drill in the Persian Gulf, reports IRNA news agency. The US fleet’s maneuvers come after Iran threatened to block the oil flow through the Strait of Hormuz.
Tehran’s surveillance jet has shot a video and pictures of the American carrier, which was later identified as John C. Stennis. The US Fifth Fleet keeps a military base in Bahrain, while the ship was spotted in the Gulf of Oman after crossing the Strait of Hormuz.
“An Iranian vessel and surveillance plane have tracked, filmed and photographed a US aircraft carrier as it was entering the Gulf of Oman from the Persian Gulf,” said Adm. Habibollah Sayyari, Iran’s navy chief, as cited by the official IRNA.
“The foreign fleet will be warned by Iranian forces if it enters the area of the drill,” added Sayyari.
The US navy confirmed on Thursday the aircraft carrier John C. Stennis had indeed headed for the Gulf of Oman, accompanied by guided-missile cruiser Mobile Bay and several other vessels. But that was “a pre-planned, routine transit” as the group was to provide air support to allied troops in Afghanistan, said Lt. Rebecca Rebarich, the spokesperson for the US Fifth Fleet.
Since Saturday, Iran has been conducting a 10-day navy drill in international waters near the Strait of Hormuz, the gateway for up to 40 per cent of world’s oil supply with the US and EU among major customers. Tehran promised to block the strait if Washington sanctions Iran’s oil exports out of suspicions that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. The US vowed not to allow Tehran to choke off the vital oil route.
While Tehran seems to be reaffirming its naval might in the region, Reuters reports all of its marine capabilities cannot be compared with the US Fifth Fleet located in the Persian Gulf, which lists over 20 ocean-range warships and 15,000 personnel.
Tensions between Iran and the West freshened in November, when the International Atomic Energy Agency released its report on Iran’s nuclear activities raising concerns the Persian country is developing weapons. Since then, the US has repeatedly said they do not exclude a military strike on Iran if they obtain firm intelligence of Iran’s nuclear program going military.
Robert Naiman, the policy director at the Just Foreign Policy think-tank, says Tehran had to call navy maneuvers at this time as otherwise it would have been perceived as a country unable to defend itself. The embargo on Iran’s oil exports proposed by the US necessitates an active response.
“It is understood in the international political discourse that an embargo is an act of war. If it really is the policy pursued by the US and Western Europe to try to cut off Iran’s oil exports, then that is an act of war. It would not make sense for Iran to roll over,” Naiman told RT.