In the six months that this blog has been carefully following the movement of aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf (since it's a vital indicator of Washington's stance toward Tehran), I haven't seen anywhere near the level of confusing statements, misinformation, rumor peddled as fact, and sheer nonsense as I saw yesterday with the news that the USS Enterprise is heading back to the region. Just follow the assorted links from my post yesterday to get an idea.
Today we add to the mix Eli Lake's story in the New York Sun, which has the distinct advantage of sources being quoted on the record, one of them by name:
The Navy is making plans to reduce the American presence in the Persian Gulf by the end of the summer to a single carrier group, down from the two carrier groups now in the Gulf.
The preparations to reduce the American presence in the Persian Gulf, off the coast of Iran, come as a third carrier group, the USS Enterprise, is set to arrive this week. But just as the Enterprise arrives, the USS Nimitz is planning to redeploy. Meanwhile the remaining carrier group, the USS John Stennis, is slated to leave the Gulf by summer's end…
Yesterday, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy, Lieutenant Bashon Mann, said the arrival of the USS Enterprise should not be understood as an escalation in the Gulf. "That is not going to happen," he said. "The Enterprise is doing a one-for-one swap with the Nimitz. They are big ships, they are traveling with their strike groups, they cannot turn on a dime so to speak, but there won't be an overlap. People will say there will be these overlaps. That means there will be three carriers, but that is incorrect." The Drudge Report yesterday featured a story from Reuters announcing the arrival of the third carrier group.
Another Defense Department spokesman who asked for anonymity confirmed yesterday that by the end the summer, the Navy will have only one carrier in the Gulf.
Of course, a lot can happen between now and Labor Day. We shall see.
(Thanks to Laura Rozen.)