In show of force, USS Nimitz sails through Strait of Hormuz
DUBAI – A US aircraft carrier passed the Strait of Hormuz uneventfully to enter the Gulf Friday, the Navy announced.
A strike group led by the USS Nimitz and including two guided-missile cruisers and a guided-missile destroyer sailed into the Gulf to operate and train with US partners and support the coalition fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) group, the US 5th Fleet added in a statement.
The Nimitz, America’s oldest carrier in active service, carries some 5,000 sailors and Marines.
“The Nimitz Strike Group has been operating in the 5th Fleet area of operations since July, and is at the peak of readiness,” said strike group commander Rear Admiral Jim Kirk.
The Nimitz strike group “is at the peak of readiness,” he added.
The move came just days after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo vowed to enforce an arms embargo and other international sanctions against Iran which the US says will resume on Saturday.
On Tuesday Pompeo vowed that Washington would prevent Iran from purchasing Chinese and Russian military equipment, even as European allies disagreed with Washington’s stance.
“We are going to act in a way — and we have acted in a way — that will prevent Iran from being able to purchase Chinese tanks and Russian air defense systems and resell weapons to Hezbollah,”Pompeo said.
And on Wednesday he said the United States will enforce resumed United Nations sanctions on Iran starting next week, despite nearly the entire UN Security Council saying Washington does not have the grounds to do so.
“We’ll do all the things we need to do to make sure that those sanctions are enforced,” Pompeo said.
American aircraft carriers have for decades sailed through the international oil shipping route in what the US describes as “defensive” operations aimed at keeping the strait open.
The show of force follows months of escalating incidents in the crucial waterway, which led earlier this year to an American drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad.
Tehran responded to that strike by firing ballistic missiles that wounded dozens of American troops in Iraq.
The Nimitz’s arrival in the Mideast saw Iran conduct a live-fire drill targeting a mockup aircraft carrier resembling it, underscoring the lingering threat of military conflict between the countries.
The Nimitz, whose homeport is Bremerton, Washington, has patrolled the Arabian Sea since late July. It replaced the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower, which had spent months in the Arabian Sea on its deployment, breaking the Navy’s previous at-sea record.
Navy officials have limited port calls due to the coronavirus pandemic.