Carrier Count: Two and holding (for now)
Time to revisit a topic we've explored a couple of times this year: The number of aircraft carriers in quick striking distance of Iran. Fascinating things are going down behind the scenes in Washington…and in Tampa, where the head of Central Command has supposedly said an attack on Iran won't happen on his watch. Reports Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service:
Adm. William Fallon, then President George W. Bush's nominee to head the Central Command (CENTCOM), expressed strong opposition in February to an administration plan to increase the number of carrier strike groups in the Persian Gulf from two to three and vowed privately there would be no war against Iran as long as he was chief of CENTCOM, according to sources with access to his thinking.
Fallon's resistance to the proposed deployment of a third aircraft carrier was followed by a shift in the Bush administration's Iran policy in February and March away from increased military threats and toward diplomatic engagement with Iran. That shift, for which no credible explanation has been offered by administration officials, suggests that Fallon's resistance to a crucial deployment was a major factor in the intra-administration struggle over policy toward Iran.
What makes this especially interesting is that Fallon's appointment was supposed to have signaled a more hawkish direction. After all, why put in a Navy guy at CentCom whose primary job is to oversee the ground fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan…unless an aerial attack on Iran from ships in the Persian Gulf is in the works?
But the deployments tell the story, at least for the moment: The USS Eisenhower is heading home, leaving the Nimitz and the Stennis as the two carriers in or near the Gulf.
Still…that's not the whole story. Over at Passport, we learn how developments in North Korea could strengthen Dick Cheney's hand when it comes to Iran. We'll continue to keep an eagle eye on things.