Gulf carrier count: Three (maybe)

We're back to three carrier strike groups within striking distance of Iran:

The U.S. navy has sent a third aircraft carrier to its Fifth Fleet area of operations, which includes Gulf waters close to Iran, the navy said on Tuesday.

"Enterprise (aircraft carrier) provides navy power to counter the assertive, disruptive and coercive behaviour of some countries, as well as support our soldiers and marines in Iraq and Afghanistan," a U.S. Navy statement said.

The move comes weeks after a flotilla of U.S. warships sailed through the narrowest point in the Gulf to hold exercises off Iran's coast in a major show of force.

Yet, Bloomberg puts a rather less-dire spin on things:

The Enterprise will replace the Nimitz, which will be gone by the time the Enterprise arrives in two to three weeks, the official said on condition of anonymity.

Time will tell.  The last time this sort of "handoff" happened was in April, and as we noted at the time, it bore watching whether the carrier being relieved would in fact go home.  It did.  (The Stennis is also stationed in the region right now.)  The other variable here that we also noted is the reported opposition of Adm. William Fallon, the head of Central Command, to the notion of three carriers in the Gulf — and his pledge that an attack on Iran would happen only after he resigned in protest.

Update:  As noted in the comments below, a more detailed article from ABC News says the Enterprise will replace the Stennis, not the Nimitz, and at no time will there be more than two carriers in the Gulf.  But curiously, the information is not attributed to any individual or agency.  (A Pentagon press release?  A Central Command spokesperson?  A contract janitor who overheard a conversation?  Hello, anyone?)  It is simply asserted as fact, and thus runs afoul of a basic journalistic principle.  In fact the more I read it the more suspicious I get; the whole article has an odd "methinks they doth protest too much" quality.

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