As Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards held the final phase of the Great Prophet war games in the Persian Gulf region, which began on December 15, US aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis also entered the Persian Gulf waters. The move prompted reactions from Iran’s military officials.
An expert on international affairs, Saadollah Zarei, has discussed the dimensions and angles of this topic in an interview with the website of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations.
Q: What is your assessment of the presence of an American aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf?
First of all, let’s remember that the presence of US warships in the Persian Gulf is not a new thing. Since 1988, American navies have been present in the Persian Gulf.
The US naval presence in the Persian Gulf was escalated during the second Persian Gulf War in 1991, and from the year 1990 up to now, that is over the past three decades, the US has dispatched warships to the Persian Gulf and their number has always been between 60 and 70.
However, with the Americans talking about pulling out Syria and reducing their military presence in Afghanistan, there is a great deal of ambiguity about the future of the US allies or, in other words, the US affiliates in the region.
Therefore, the presence of American aircraft carrier in the Persian Gulf could suggest that US military withdrawal from Syria does not mean a decline in Washington’s support for Saudi Arabia or the Zionist regime in the region. By taking this action, it seems that the United States has sent a short message with a short range to some of its allies.
Q: Could the US naval presence have taken place under the provocation of Iran’s regional enemies?
The US could have done this upon the request of the Saudis or the Israelis. Because, as mentioned before, Tel Aviv and Riyadh are very concerned about the withdrawal of US forces from the region and are also afraid of Iran’s growing role. Therefore, it is not unlikely for them to have urged Washington to dispatch USS John C. Stennis to the Persian Gulf to put pressure on Tehran.
In fact, following a decision by the US to withdraw its troops from Syria doubts were raised on Washington’s continued support for US military support for Saudi Arabia and Israel, but the presence of the American aircraft carrier near the Iranian waters could come as healing.
Q: Can the United States use this occasion as propaganda against Iran?
I have not seen a wide reflection in this regard, and I suspect that this issue would attract much media coverage. Perhaps the US aims to create an anti-Iran climate, especially since it failed to achieve its anti-Iranian goals by its withdrawal from the Iranian Nuclear Agreement (also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action). Today too, Washington finds itself in a state of failure in the region, but this action cannot, by any means, affect Iran’s policies or the significant role played by the Islamic Republic.
Q: How do you assess the reaction and warnings of Iranian military officials?
Basically, such actions and US military presence in the Persian Gulf are unacceptable to the Islamic Republic of Iran, and therefore we regard any American movement in this region a security threat against the Persian Gulf states. This is our traditional policy with regard to the presence of foreign military vessels on the waterway, and for this reason, our military and security officials have issued warnings against the presence of the American warship.
Q: In recent decades, the presence of American aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf had become routine. But this year after the “USS Theodore Roosevelt left the region, Washington did not dispatch an alternative warship to the Persian Gulf. The Pentagon has described this as part of its plan to increase the US navy’s flexibility and unpredictability. Having these in mind, how long do you think the aircraft carrier will stay in the Persian Gulf?
President Donald Trump has said about the withdrawal of American troops from Syria, that it was ineffective and had big economic costs for Washington. Trump is expected to adhere to the same policy concerning military presence in the Persian Gulf.