Is the U.S. starting to get tough on Iran? Despite warm words in Geneva, military tensions in the Persian Gulf are high—and ratcheting up. The Hill reports:
Earlier this week, U.S. Central Command — which oversees U.S. military operations in the Middle East — announced that 3,000 U.S. forces would conduct a major exercise in Kuwait and its territorial waters right across from Iran from March 8 to March 31. U.S. troops will be joined on the exercise by forces from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations.The GCC comprises Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — some of whom see Iran as an adversary.
Preparations were also underway by sea, from a perhaps-unexpected quarter:
In recent weeks, France has also sent an aircraft carrier, the Charles De Gaulle, to the Gulf, where it has joined the USS Carl Vinson, already on patrol there. The French carrier is under U.S. operational command for the first time in the carrier’s history.The French action in effect brings the U.S. back up to the two-carrier strength seen in the Gulf at the start of this decade. Pentagon policy back in 2010 called for having two U.S. aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf to deter Iran from aggression. However, due to the defense budget cuts known as sequestration, that policy was dropped in 2013.
On the one hand, it’s notable that France, which has taken a hard line on many regional questions in accordance with its policy of snuggling up to the Saudis, has taken the major step of sending a carrier to the region and, what’s more, placing it under U.S. operational command.On the other hand, the reliance on the French carrier shows that the defense sequestration has had a crippling effect on U.S. capacities at a moment of serious international crisis.The U.S. military’s vow to continue “watching” Iranian regional activity sounds unintentionally feeble under the circumstances. “Watching” while Iran moves to advance power across a strategically vital region responsible for over half of world’s oil production does not sound like a very dynamic policy.